Tigers agree to terms with six players

With the Tigers pretty well done in free agency and clear of arbitration, they began the process of signing their younger players by reaching agreement with six members of their 40-man roster on Tuesday.

Lefty starting candidates Duane Below and Casey Crosby reached agreement on one-year contracts, as did prospects Avisail Garcia, Jose Ortega, Tyler Stohr and Brayan Villarreal. The deals raise the total of signed Tigers to 24 players on the 40-man roster.

The deals are essentially a foregone conclusion. Players on the 40-man roster without enough time in the Majors to qualify for arbitration can either negotiate a contract with the team or have the club renew their contract at the last possible date – this year, it’s March 11. Most players will reach an agreement before then.

None of the players who agreed to terms Tuesday have a full season in the big leagues yet. In fact, Below is the only one with more than a month in the Majors. He turned a couple of midsummer spot starts into a bullpen role down the stretch in a pennant race, and could be poised to win a rotation spot out of camp this year.

The 26-year-old Michigan native went 0-2 with a 4.34 ERA in 14 games, allowing 28 hits over 29 innings with 11 walks and 14 strikeouts.

Crosby came out of the same 2007 draft that brought Rick Porcello to the Tigers. The left-hander passed up on a football scholarship to Illinois to sign with Detroit for a bonus just under $750,000 before injuries slowed his development. A healthy 2011 season put him back on the prospect watch with a 9-7 record and 4.10 ERA at Double-A Erie. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski mentioned him last week as part of the rotation competition for the lone open spot.

Villarreal was the surprise of last year’s camp, making the Tigers’ Opening Day roster as a reliever. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up 12 earned runs on 21 hits over 16 innings before spending the rest of the season at Triple-A Toledo.

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