March 23rd, 2012

Leyland discusses three roster decisions looming

Jim Leyland was asked before Friday’s game if all of his roster questions could come down to the same day near the end of spring training, or if they could stagger them.

“I think they possibly could all funnel down to one day,” Leyland said, “but I think you could possibly make one of those decisions sooner than the other two. You could get your position players [set], but the bullpen spot and the fifth starter spot are going to go real late, because we don’t know. We have no idea.”

Leyland has talked about the outfield decision they have to make, and he has played Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas accordingly in an effort to get them both ample at-bats.

“I think Dirks and Thomas are real close,” Leyland said earlier in the week. “I’m happy with it.”

Of course, Leyland also has played Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge quite a bit at second base, and now Inge at third while Miguel Cabrera is out in an effort to get Inge as many at-bats as possible. He also has talked about second base as a mix.

“Second base is not a problem,” Leyland said March 12. “It might be a problem figuring out who’s going to play there, but it’s not a problem, because I’m covered three ways for sure.”

The positional issues — or issue — could get a little bit of clarity coming up next week. Leyland also said Friday that he hopes to use a day next week against a left-handed starting pitcher to test out his Opening Day lineup, including the batting order he’ll likely use April 5 against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester. Third base could be tricky that day, assuming Cabrera isn’t yet back to game action by then, but the DH slot for that day could be telling, whether it’s Ryan Raburn or Delmon Young or somebody else.

Fister leaves with right middle finger soreness

Tigers right-hander Doug Fister left his start Friday against the Pirates in the fifth inning with what the team classified as right middle finger soreness. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Fister had retired leadoff hitter Clint Barmes in the fifth and had thrown a pitch to pinch-hitter Yamaico Navarro when catcher Gerald Laird signaled for head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Manager Jim Leyland followed Rand to the mound and after a quick look at his right hand, pulled Fister from the game as a precaution.

Relief candidate Brayan Villarreal finished out the inning, completing Fister’s pitching line with 4 1/3 innings on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The only damage off Fister was a two-run home run from Matt Hague.

Detroit has just under two weeks before opening its season April 5 against the Red Sox at Comerica Park, which should be plenty of time to get Fister back on the mound if it’s nothing more than soreness.

Friday: Tigers at Pirates

With Miguel Cabrera out and Prince Fielder not on the trip, Jim Leyland gets to pull out the card that says you can play the hot bats in the middle of the order in Spring Training. Ryan Raburn is batting cleanup today, with Delmon Young batting fifth. Interesting to see Jhonny Peralta hitting third, but that might just be a situation to get him an extra at-bat early before getting him out of the contest.

Brandon Inge starts at third base for the second straight game.

The Pirates are not using the designated hitter.

TIGERS

  1. Andy Dirks, CF
  2. Brennan Boesch, RF
  3. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  4. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  5. Delmon Young, LF
  6. Don Kelly, 1B
  7. Clete Thomas, DH
  8. Brandon Inge, 3B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Doug Fister

PIRATES

  1. Jose Tabata, RF
  2. Nate McLouth, LF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Neil Walker, 2B
  5. Casey McGehee, 3B
  6. Matt Hague, 1B
  7. Rod Barajas, C
  8. Clint Barmes, SS
  9. Charlie Morton, P
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