Tigers trade Bryan Holaday to Texas

The spring-long wait for catcher Bryan Holaday’s roster fate ended Tuesday night, when the Tigers traded their former backup to the Texas Rangers for catcher Bobby Wilson and right-handed pitching prospect Myles Jaye.

Holaday, a former Tigers draft pick who backed up Alex Avila for much of 2014, was on trade watch since Detroit signed veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia in December. Though the Tigers would’ve liked the catching depth behind second-year starter James McCann, Holaday is out of minor-league options and would’ve had to clear waivers to be outrighted to Triple-A Toledo.

Holaday helped his case with a standout spring offensively, batting 14-for-32 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He added defensive versatility to his resume with playing time at third base and left field.

The Rangers, who had been seeking to upgrade at backup catcher, were among the teams most frequently mentioned with rumored interest in Holaday, who grew up in Dallas and starred at nearby Texas Christian University. Once the Astros acquired Erik Kratz from the Padres Monday night, Texas was the most logical landing spot for Holaday.

Tuesday’s trade ensures the Tigers of some depth with Wilson, who turns 33 on April 8 and has backed up for four different teams over parts of seven Major League seasons. He’s a .204 (107-for-525) career hitter with nine home runs and 51 RBIs, while he’s a .994 fielder with eight passed balls and a 27 percent caught-stealing rate over 232 career games caught.

Wilson is expected to open the season in Toledo, with Miguel Gonzalez or Raffy Lopez backing him up.

The 24-year-old Jaye adds some pitching depth to a Tigers organization that has been trying to stockpile. The 24-year-old went 12-9 with a 3.29 ERA in 26 starts last year at Double-A Birmingham in the White Sox system, allowing 135 hits over 147 2/3 innings with 47 walks and 104 strikeouts. He’ll join the rotation at Double-A Erie.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Jays

As expected, Victor Martinez returns to the lineup today, batting cleanup as the DH. Aside from Tyler Collins in center, the Tigers have close to a regular lineup. It’s at least a Major League lineup, as Wynton Bernard’s option to Triple-A Toledo this morning all but ensures Collins will make the squad (barring a last-minute move).

The last time Matt Boyd faced his old squad, he gave up seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. He’s facing the Blue Jays again, but a vastly different lineup thanks to a split-squad day for the Jays.

The forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms at some point this afternoon, thanks to a large system currently creeping in off the Gulf Coast. Bryan Holaday (who was originally written in the lineup for last night’s game but was written out with a thumb injury) is expected to catch the later innings after his thumb checked out OK on tests, but this game might not get that far.

No TV for this game, but you can catch the radio broadcast on AM 1270 in Detroit and MLB Gameday Audio online.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Justin Upton, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Tyler Collins, CF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Matt Boyd, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Lendy Castillo

BLUE JAYS

  1. Darwin Barney, 2B
  2. Darrell Ceciliani, RF
  3. David Adams, 3B
  4. Domonic Brown, DH
  5. Junior Lake, LF
  6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  7. Jio Mier, SS
  8. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  9. Josh Thole, C

P: Joe Biagini

Tigers release Parnell, McGehee, option Rondon

The Tigers’ bullpen competition thinned out by two relatively big names Monday. Right-hander Bobby Parnell, who faced a Tuesday deadline to be added to the 25-man roster, was granted his unconditional release, while Bruce Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

Infielder Casey McGehee, who also faced a Tuesday deadline for a roster decision, was also granted his unconditional release. The moves reduce Detroit’s camp roster to 36 players with six days before the Opening Day roster deadline.

The moves also throw a twist into a bullpen competition thrown wide open by injuries. Both Parnell and Rondon were expected to be in competition for a spot, especially following injuries to Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy. Instead, the relief ranks shape up to include Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer, Logan Kensing, Lendy Castillo and potentially Shane Greene if he doesn’t win the fifth slot in the starting rotation.

Parnell and McGehee both signed minor-league deals with non-roster invites around the start of camp. Both have enough Major League service time to qualify for an opt-out and a retention bonus, allowing them to get a roster decision five days before the end of camp or a $100,000 retention bonus to stick around.

By getting their release, Parnell and McGehee can test the market for clubs that might have a role for them on Major League rosters. They could also sign back with the Tigers on minor-league deals.

Parnell gave up nine runs on 15 hits over 9 1/3 innings with eight walks and eight strikeouts, but five of those runs and five hits came in one-third of an inning against the Blue Jays last Tuesday. His stuff improved as camp went along, including a fastball that registered at 96 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium during a scoreless inning with two strikeouts Sunday against the Astros.

Rondon had moments of dominance but an inconsistent spring, allowing 10 runs on 13 hits over 10 innings with 13 strikeouts and four walks. Nine of those runs came in three outings. He gave up two home runs in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday, ending a streak of four consecutive scoreless innings with a walk and six strikeouts.

The Tigers were hoping to keep McGehee at Triple-A Toledo as insurance in case of injury to Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez or Nick Castellanos. The former NL Comeback Player of the Year batted .316 (12-for-38) this spring with a home run, six RBIs, seven walks and four strikeouts.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Astros

Justin Upton gets the day off after his two-homer, four-hit performance Saturday in Clearwater. So does Nick Castellanos, who has been making a slew of road trips this spring. Casey McGehee gets the start at third as the Tigers near decision time on whether to put him on the Opening Day roster or offer him a $100,000 retention bonus to stick around in the minors. Tyler Collins, who tripled twice yesterday, replaces Upton in left.

The Astros have a split-squad set with their trip to Mexico City this weekend, but kept a good number of big-leaguers stateside, including George Springer, Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez.

No TV today, but the radio broadcast is on 97.1 in Detroit and MLB Gameday Audio online. You can also listen online to the Astros broadcast, featuring former Tigers pitcher Steve Sparks.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, DH
  6. Casey McGehee, 3B
  7. Tyler Collins, LF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Anthony Gose, CF

P: Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell, Drew VerHagen, Bruce Rondon

ASTROS

  1. George Springer, RF
  2. Alex Bregman, SS
  3. Colby Rasmus, LF
  4. Carlos Gomez, CF
  5. A.J. Reed, DH
  6. Jason Castro, C
  7. Jon Singleton, 1B
  8. J.D. Davis, 3B
  9. Mott Hyde, 2B

P: Scott Feldman, Mike Fiers, Luke Gregerson, Cesar Valdez, Angel Heredia, Tommy Shirley, Michael Feliz

Tigers option Moya, Machado to Toledo

Steven Moya’s standout Spring Training with the Tigers has come to an end. The slugging outfielder, who made an early spring statement with four home runs in the first couple weeks, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning along with shortstop prospect Dixon Machado.

The moves reduce the Tigers’ Spring Training roster to 41 players with a week to go in camp.

Though Moya didn’t come to camp with a roster spot to win thanks to Justin Upton’s arrival, the towering 24-year-old had something to prove after a learning experience of a 2015 season at Triple-A Toledo. More than pure numbers, Moya wanted to show the improved pitch recognition and deliberate plate approach that led to an impressive winter ball season in the Dominican Republic.

“I just want to go up every single at-bat, don’t miss in any one, be focused on each one, keep working hard,” Moya said after his fourth home run of the spring March 13.

The results brought back memories of his breakout 2014 Spring Training, but also showed more maturity as a hitter. Moya hit .367 (11-for-30) with four homers and eight RBIs, yet struck out just five times. His damage included a line-drive home run off Pirates lefty specialist Tony Watson, an opposite-field homer off Astros closer Ken Giles and a two-hit game off Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Thursday.

It was never going to win him a job on the Opening Day roster, barring injuries well beyond the nagging left hamstring strain that has slowed Victor Martinez. The Tigers have been steadfast on wanting him to carry forward his approach and play every day in Toledo, where he batted .240 (120-for-500) last year with 30 doubles, 20 homers, 74 RBIs and 162 strikeouts.

Still, this spring gives Tigers officials something to think about if and when they need to call up an outfielder to fill in during the season.

“He looks a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident,” manager Brad Ausmus said of Moya earlier this month. “He’s had good at-bats. He really has.”

Like Moya, Machado’s Spring Training was more about making an impression than winning a job, since Jose Iglesias blocks his path to the big leagues. While he struggled at the plate this spring, batting 6-for-28 with no extra-base hits, no walks and four strikeouts, he put on a defensive display with several ranging stops and grabs. In that sense, he showed confidence from his September stint filling in for Iglesias in Detroit.

The Tigers have planned all along on Machado starting at shortstop in Toledo rather than serving in a utility role in Detroit. He’ll likely return to the big leagues if Iglesias has an injury that forces him to miss time.

Saturday’s lineup: Tigers at Phillies

Normally when the Tigers play in National League team parks during Spring Training, the host team will give them the option of using a designated hitter. Today, the Tigers don’t want it. With Justin Verlander lined up for an Opening Day start April 5 at Miami, a National League park where he’ll have to hit, the Tigers are letting him bat today against the Phillies in Clearwater.

Ok, bat is a relative term. Manager Brad Ausmus wants him to see some pitches and bunt. But as Ausmus’ predecessor will attest, sometimes Verlander swings anyway.

Steven Moya was originally slated to bat cleanup and start in right field, but the Tigers announced this morning that they’ve optioned Moya and shortstop Dixon Machado to Triple-A Toledo. Tyler Collins gets the start in right instead.

TIGERS

  1. Wynton Bernard, CF
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Justin Upton, LF
  4. Tyler Collins, RF
  5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. John Mayberry Jr., 1B
  8. Mike Aviles, 2B
  9. Justin Verlander, P

Friday lineups: Tigers vs. Braves

Different batting order, but fairly regular lineup aside from DH and center field. Andrew Romine gets the start in center, while Nate Schierholtz fills in for Victor Martinez at DH. James McCann will catch nine innings today as the Tigers try to gear him up for Opening Day. Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler are also scheduled to go the whole game.

The Braves have a split-squad set today, but still send a fair number of regulars down Interstate 4, including Freddie Freeman. Former Tigers reliever Ian Krol is on the pitching list behind John Gant, who has tossed 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts this spring in his quest for a roster spot.

No radio or TV on this one, so follow on Gameday. Or Twitter. Or talk amongst yourselves.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Justin Upton, LF
  6. Nate Schierholtz, DH
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Andrew Romine, CF

P: Shane Greene, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer, Logan Kensing

BRAVES

  1. Ender Inciarte, CF
  2. Emilio Bonifacio, RF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Adonis Garcia, 3B
  5. Blake Lalli, DH
  6. Hector Olivera, LF
  7. Jace Peterson, SS
  8. Willians Astudillo, C
  9. Reid Brignac, 2B

P: John Gant, Ian Krol, Carlos Torres, Arodys Vizcaino

Tigers: Norris won’t be ready to start season

The lower back problems that scratched Daniel Norris from one start and forced him out of another over the past week will keep him off of the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. Manager Brad Ausmus confirmed that Detroit’s young left-hander will not be ready to open the season with the Major League roster.

“He won’t be at this point,” Ausmus said prior to Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays. “From a pitch count perspective, he probably wouldn’t be ready by Opening Day.”

Exactly when Norris will pitch again at any level is to be determined. Norris spent Thursday visiting a back specialist to determine the reasons for the lower back tightness that have limited him. Norris underwent initial tests Tuesday after leaving that day’s game in the first inning, having thrown 25 pitches against the Jays. He was pitching Tuesday because he was scratched from his previously scheduled start against the Marlins last Saturday.

Norris, who won a job in the Jays rotation last year with a dominant Spring Training, has given up seven runs on 12 hits over 6 1/3 innings this year. More importantly, he hasn’t pitched more than two innings in a game this year. Even if he could make his next scheduled start, he would have two starts to build up from around 50 pitches to 90, while also trying to pitch effectively.

The likely fate for Norris is a season-opening stint on the 15-day disabled list. If Norris is ready to pitch before the end of Spring Training, the Tigers could keep the DL as an option by pitching him in minor-league games. If Norris pitches again by the end of camp, Detroit could also option him to the minor leagues, since he has one left and could qualify for a bonus option.

Thus, what looked to be Norris’ job to lose at the back of Detroit’s rotation will come down to Shane Greene, Matt Boyd or Buck Farmer. Boyd is scheduled to face the Blue Jays today, with Greene pitching Friday against the Braves in Lakeland.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Blue Jays

Steven Moya gets a game at designated hitter, and Andrew Romine at second base, as the Tigers make their first trek of the spring to Dunedin. James McCann is scheduled to catch today and tomorrow as the Tigers ramp up his workload in preparation for Opening Day. They’ll all get a look at the knuckleball of R.A. Dickey.

The Blue Jays will actually field fewer regulars today than they did in Lakeland a couple days ago, thanks in part to minor injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista.

TIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Justin Upton, LF
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Steven Moya, DH
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. John Mayberry Jr., 1B
  9. Andrew Romine, 2B

P: Matt Boyd, Drew VerHagen, Bruce Rondon, Bobby Parnell, Buck Farmer

BLUE JAYS

  1. Kevin Pillar, CF
  2. Darwin Barney, SS
  3. Andy Burns, 3B
  4. Chris Colabello, DH
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B
  6. Junior Lake, LF
  7. Domonic Brown, RF
  8. David Adams, 2B
  9. Josh Thole, C

P: R.A. Dickey, Arnold Leon, Ryan Tepera, David Aardsma, Pat Venditte

Norris leaves start with injury

Daniel Norris’ latest test for the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation ended in the first inning, when he left Tuesday’s start against the Blue Jays with an injury.

Norris pitched Tuesday because he was scratched from his previously scheduled start Saturday with lower back stiffness. He struggled through a 25-pitch opening inning against his old club, including a nine-game battle with Jose Bautista that ended in a walk ahead of Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run home run.

Norris gave up a Chris Colabello double after Tulowitzki’s homer, then threw back-to-back fastballs up to Justin Smoak. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and manager Brad Ausmus walked out to check on Norris, eventually pulled from the game.

Norris walked gingerly with Rand straight to the Tigers clubhouse in the right-field corner.

Norris, acquired from Toronto in the David Price trade last July, is competing with Shane Greene and Matt Boyd for a spot in Detroit’s rotation. While his repertoire has shown glimpses of last year’s form, his results have been inconsistent. With Tuesday’s three runs against one out recorded, Norris has given up seven runs on 12 hits over 6 1/3 innings with four walks and eight strikeouts.

Before Tuesday’s game, Ausmus noted the importance of the start.

“We definitely need to see a step forward,” Ausmus said Tuesday morning.

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