February 18th, 2010

Few Tigers delayed to camp (Damon not included)

The good news for the Tigers on reporting day is that they don’t have another Francisco Cruceta situation on their hands. You remember him from 2008, right? He was the reliever who was stuck in the Dominican all spring with visa problems after he was supposed to be a big solution to the Tigers’ bullpen depth. Instead, Denny Bautista opened the season as Detroit’s setup man.

The bad news for the Tigers is that they have a few guys who are going to be a little late to camp:

  • Closer Jose Valverde is expected to get in on Saturday. He’s dealing with a personal situation, according to manager Jim Leyland.
  • Catcher Gerald Laird won’t be around until early next week, probably Tuesday. His sister is getting married this weekend.
  • Catcher Max St. Pierre is also expected to arrive Saturday. He and his wife are expecting their first child, if she hasn’t already given birth.

Other than that, I think all the pitchers and catchers are in. Leyland joked that he might have coach Gene Lamont don catching gear again if they need an extra body to catch bullpen sessions. Brandon Inge definitely won’t, not with his knees.

As for the Damon thing, I can confirm that there’s an open locker in the corner of the Tigers clubhouse, right in front of Leyland’s office. It belonged to Casper Wells last year, but he’s been moved over to the other side. Still, that doesn’t mean Damon’s going to fill it. Considering it sits next to Cabrera, it could also go to Andres Galarraga. Really, if I were going to put Galarraga in the clubhouse somewhere, that’s where I’d put him.

Coke wishes he could call Damon

Don’t expect Phil Coke to go for a round of golf with Johnny Damon, but as a teammate with the Yankees last year, he’s a believer in the buzz about what he brings to the club.

“You have to understand something: When you have an opportunity to play on a championship team, there are a bunch of players around the league that have come together on one team whose careers speak for themselves,” Coke said. “I don’t know what your personal opinion is of Johnny, and your opinion might not match mine because you don’t know him like I do. I mean, I love Johnny. He’s an amazing person, on and off the field. It doesn’t matter where he’s at. He’s the same guy. He’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s a great dude to go hang out with, on and off the field. He’s an all-around good guy.”

Coke understands the limitations on Damon, but he also understands what’s at the heart of him.

“He still moves really good,” Coke said. “He has his struggles in the outfield, but that’s because he sacrificed himself year after year for the game. I can’t tell you I’d want anybody else in the clubhouse except for a guy like that. I’ve been told that growing up in the game of baseball — Little League, high school, junior college, guys that are willing to sacrifice themselves for the game, for the team, those are the guys you want to play with. They don’t necessarily have to be the best, but they’re going to give you everything they’ve got, every single day.”

So would he be a recruiter for the Tigers?

“I wish I had his number,” Coke said, “because I’d be like, ‘Hey, man, quit messing around.”

Robertson coming off offseason groin surgery

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski had referenced surgery for Nate Robertson at an offseason radio interview. Couldn’t get it confirmed by Robertson this winter, but he confirmed it on Wednesday. It was a procedure to repair a torn muscle in his left groin, and it was a problem that had bothered him for much of the season’s second half.

Dr. William Meyers, who performed hernia surgery on Magglio Ordonez in 2005, performed this procedure in mid-November. Robertson says he’s fully recovered now and was able to do a relatively normal offseason routine.