March 31st, 2012

Could Tigers break camp with four starters?

It sounded like it wasn’t really an idea that interested Jim Leyland earlier this spring when he was first asked about it. Now that Opening Day is less than a week away, and the first game where they need a fifth starter is more than two weeks away, Leyland isn’t ruling out the potential that they could start the season with a four-man rotation and wait until they actually need their fifth starter April 14 before they call him out.

“We could,” he said.

How they would use that spot is another decision. The usual option is to carry an extra reliever. But in theory, the Tigers could carry an extra position player.

“If you decide to go with the one way, you could end up with an extra guy on the team,” Leyland said. “It might not be a pitcher. If you decide to go that way. That’s a big if.”

That question came up about a month ago. At that point, Leyland indicated they planned on taking 12 pitchers, but didn’t rule out the fifth starter staying back for a start in a minor-league game, saying that would be discussed.

“I think we’ll start the season with 12 pitchers,” Leyland said at the time. “I’d like to get everybody settled in.”

Leyland: “I know what my team is … pending.”

Jim Leyland was rubbing his temples as he talked with reporters before Saturday’s game. For someone who says he has a good idea about his final roster decisions, he looks like somebody stressing.

“I know what my team is, pending,” Leyland said. Then he emphasized again, “Pending.”

From his other comments, it doesn’t sound like there’s much disagreement on any of the likely choices.

“We’re all on the same page,” he said. “We’re got some things pending, obviously.”

That pending part is not a trade. To the best of his knowledge, he said, there are no trades in the works. So unless the Tigers are signing a free agent (and that’s highly unikely), the pending part would seem to be the waiver process, which they have to go through for guys who are out of minor-league options or guys who have the right to decline a minor-league assignment. Clete Thomas, for an example, would fit the first category, while Brandon Inge would fit both.

“We’re close,” he said at another point. “I just learned you have to be careful you don’t set things too early. … I mean, we pretty much know what our team is, but we could not say for sure.”

For what it’s worth, Drew Smyly is now officially listed as the probable starter for Monday’s home spring finale against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. That’s his turn in the spring rotation to pitch, having last pitched Wednesday against the Cardinals.

Inge, Laird both day-to-day

Gerald Laird was in the Tigers clubhouse Saturday morning and moving around fine. He indicated he thinks he could be ready in the next day or two. The Tigers seem to agree. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Laird has a Grade 1 sprain of his left knee but should be fine.

“He’s basically a day-to-day guy for us,” Rand said.

As for the Brandon Inge update, he did not make the trip to Disney World today. He wasn’t seen in the clubhouse as the Tigers who weren’t on the trip headed out to work around 9:30, but he apparently stopped in to get treatment on his sore groin. Rand said he’s getting multiple treatments.

“The groin that he felt the other night at the end of the game, trying to beat out the double play ball, we’ve just kind of got to see where it takes us,” Rand said. “He’s a little bit better today. We’re keeping him off the field for a couple of days, just to give that a chance to come around. And hopefully he’ll be back for us in the next couple days.”

Saturday: Tigers at Braves

If you want to project a regular lineup except for Delmon Young, you’d be doing pretty good with this one. With Young not on the trip, Andy Dirks starts in left field and Brennan Boesch is the DH, with Clete Thomas in right field for the day.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Brennan Boesch, DH
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Andy Dirks, LF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  8. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  9. Clete Thomas, RF

P: Justin Verlander

BRAVES

  1. Michael Bourn, CF
  2. Jack Wilson, 3B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Dan Uggla, 2B
  5. Jason Heyward, RF
  6. Eric Hinske, LF
  7. David Ross, C
  8. Tyler Pastornicky, SS
  9. Tommy Hanson, P
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