Results tagged ‘ Nick Castellanos ’

Tigers emerge as suitor (front-runner?) for Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter’s play as a Minnesota Twins outfielder early in his career earned him the title as a Tiger killer around these parts. After all these years, it’s now realistic for Detroit fans to consider the possibility of Hunter becoming a Tiger.

It might not take long to figure out, one way or the other.

The Tigers are interested in Hunter, as reported earlier Monday by CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler, and as has been expected since team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski laid out their needs for a corner outfielder two weeks ago. Between Detroit’s season-long struggles against left-handed pitching, its desire to become more athletic, its lack of a proven second hitter between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young’s departure as a free agent taking away one of Detroit’s key right-handed hitters, the Tigers’ needs fit Hunter’s strengths.

Just as encouraging, there are signs the interest is mutual, and strong. Whether the Tigers should be considered the front-runners for Hunter, as MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden put it, is a matter of perception, one that could change if another of his suitors (Knobler mentioned Texas, while the Rays, Phillies and Red Sox have also been mentioned in reports for possible one-year offers) steps up in the coming days. But signs point towards a logical match between Hunter and Detroit.

Hunter, moreover, sounded like he already has a team or teams in mind.

“It’s going to be quick,” Hunter told MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show with Harold Reynolds. “I’m not going to wait it out. I know who I want to play for.”

Hunter didn’t mention which teams, but he said he’s looking to win, not simply get paid.

“Everybody knows I want to win,” Hunter told MLB Network, “so whatever team’s out there that wants to win and can use me and let me be a part of it, that’s who I want to be playing with.”

Hunter just finished a five-year, $90 million contract with the Angels. He has plenty of money, and he has a son who just committed to a football scholarship at Notre Dame.

That said, it’s expected to take a multi-year deal to sign Hunter, a fact which impacts his market at age 37. If he were to settle on a one-year deal, his field expands.

It leaves the Tigers with an intriguing decision. Detroit has two highly regarded, right-handed hitting outfield prospects with postseason hero Avisail Garcia and Futures Game MVP Nick Castellanos. Both are expected to have a chance to compete for a job in Spring Training, possibly a timeshare with Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch in one corner outfield spot.

The other corner spot is open, and that’s where Hunter fits in. Add in Hunter’s clubhouse presence and track record of working with young outfielders — Mike Trout credited Hunter’s help as an impact on him during his Rookie of the Year interview Monday night on MLB Network — and he’s one potential signing that could improve two spots, not to mention his potential impact on center fielder Austin Jackson.

However, a two-year deal for Hunter likely would mean a longer wait for Castellanos or Garcia. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, an extra year or two of development, but it’s something the win-now Tigers have to weigh.

Castellanos singles twice in AFL Rising Stars game

It has been a learning experience for Nick Castellanos in the Arizona Fall League, but the Tigers top prospect represented himself well in the league’s annual Rising Stars game, singling in each of his first two at-bats in a 2-for-5 effort Saturday night in Scottsdale.

Castellanos, batting cleanup as the East team’s DH, had an opposite-field single in the opening inning before hitting a hard ground ball to left in the third. He grounded out to third base a couple times the rest of the night, including a double play later.

Castellanos, who shifted from right field to left in Arizona as the Tigers try to find another position where he could compete for a job in the near future, is batting 17-for-71 (.239) in Arizona with four doubles, a home run and three RBIs, walking eight times with 24 strikeouts.

Castellanos taking fly balls in left field with Erie

Nick Castellanos broke into the U.S. starting lineup for the All-Star Futures Game as the designated hitter. He might also have provided a hint for where he could eventually fit in as a Tiger if Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder stay on the corners for the foreseeable future.

Actually, the hint came from Tigers minor-league instructor Kevin Bradshaw, who talked with Castellanos shortly before his promotion to Double-A Erie.

“Get an outfielder’s glove,” Castellanos said he was told. “Just to have one, it’s not a bad idea. So I went out and got one. I haven’t been getting specific instruction there yet. He just said to get out there, start getting a little different view.”

Once Castellanos made the jump to Erie little more than a month ago, he began tracking fly balls in left field during pregame batting practice — not specific drills, he said, but a way to get accustomed to that angle.

“A lot of it is pretty getting used to seeing the way the ball comes off [the bat] to lefties, comes off to righties, making sure I’m getting behind the balls when I’m running after them instead of running forward and then having to adjust backwards. That’s pretty much it,” Castellanos said Sunday before the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City.

By all accounts, no move is imminent. All of Castellanos’ game action has been at third base, with the occasional start at designated hitter to get him off his feet. But with Miguel Cabrera seemingly at third base for the foreseeable future while Prince Fielder is at first, and the Tigers potentially having an opening in left field as soon as next season, though Castellanos won’t necessarily be ready at that point.

When asked about where his future lies, Castellanos said nothing definitive.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I know the organization still loves me as a third baseman. They see me there in the future. They’ve also mentioned to get an outfielder’s glove, nothing too serious so far.”

Cabrera broke into the big leagues with the 2003 Marlins as their left fielder because that’s where their void was. They had Mike Lowell at third, though Lowell missed most of September that year and Cabrera filled in at third.

“All those guys are great,” Castellanos said. “I’m just going to have to keep on grinding it through and hopefully I’ll force them to put me somewhere.”

Another example is Albert Pujols, who played both corner outfield and infield spots as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001 before spending most of the following two years as the Cards’ primary left fielder.

“If you hit,” the 20-year-old Castellanos said, “they’re going to find a spot for you.”

Leyland on Inge: “He’s not the happiest camper”

Four years ago, Miguel Cabrera was a man on the move, and Brandon Inge was man without a position, hoping to find a starting job somewhere. The trade that was expected that winter never happened, and Inge ended up back at third base.

Now, the Tigers and Inge might be back in the same spot.

Because Miguel Cabrera was the only player given a heads-up about the signing, Inge found out about being replaced through the media, not the team. Manager Jim Leyland said he finally talked with Inge Thursday once the signing was official.

“I basically apologized [to him] that this got out on the airwaves obviously prior to us wanting it to,” Leyland said. “I’m sorry he had to hear it other than from the horse’s mouth, but at that particular time, I was not at any liberty to discuss this whatsoever.

“I have talked with Brandon. He’s not the happiest camper. We certainly understand. We try to deal with these issues as we’re supposed to be.”

Leyland suggested there still could be a role for Inge on the team. He had Inge penciled in for some starts at third when Cabrera’s DHing or off. He did not indicate any change of positions for Inge.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said he has not talked with Inge yet, or his agents. If Inge wants a trade or release, he hasn’t heard about it. At this point, he isn’t preparing to make a move.

“I can understand he wouldn’t be thrilled,” Dombrowski said, “but I also think at this point, probably the best thing for him to do — he’s not coming off a big year, the market is pretty well set — probably the best thing is to let him come to spring training, let him play well and let’s see what happens. I think he still can play a very important role on our club. Like I said, we’re trying to win.

“I respect his situation. We’ll do what we can. We’ll see what happens, but I think he’s a very important part of our club. He is in good shape, and he’s worked hard, and I think he’s got a chance to put up some nice numbers this year.”

Inge has $6 million in guaranteed money this year — $5.5 million in salary, plus a $500,000 buyout assuming the Tigers don’t pick up his $6 million option for 2013. The Tigers were willing to eat that money last summer when they designated him for assignment for make room for Wilson Betemit. Inge accepted a minor-league assignment after some encouragement from Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.

On the other hand, if Miguel Cabrera’s move to third base doesn’t work out — remember, the Tigers moved him out of third a few weeks into the 2008 season — the Tigers would then need a third baseman. If Inge is gone, the Tigers’ best option at third is Don Kelly. So even if the Tigers could find another team for Inge, or could afford to eat his contract, they have a motivation not to. He’s an insurance policy, or Plan B, or the fallback option, whatever term you want to use.

On a semi-related note, Dombrowski was asked whether Cabrera’s move to third makes top position prospect Nick Castellanos, one of the top third base prospects in the game, expendable? Dombrowski said no.

“We’re in a position where you just take your time with him,” Dombrowski said. “He’s at third base. He’s a tremendous player. He’s going to be a tremendous player. We’re not looking to trade him. He’s just made the [MLB.com] Top 100 players prospectwise along with [Jacob] Turner and [Drew] Smyly.

“So for me, it’s just really a matter of you want to have young players. A guy like Castellanos will be a fine big-league player. He’ll fit in great eventually.”

Getting the picture here?

Nothing going on with Tigers on Garza

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the Detroit News “nothing has changed” in regards to his remarks from last week on the Tigers’ approach to starting pitching and their prospects, despite recent rumors. Another source told MLB.com Tuesday that there’s nothing going on with the Tigers in regards to Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.

MLB Network and MLB.com’s Peter Gammons had similar sentiments Tuesday night on Hot Stove.

“I’m told it’s not going to happen,” Gammons said of a potential Garza deal to Detroit. “I mean, the Cubs are interested in talking with the Tigers. I’m told the Tigers have said, ‘We’re not going to do it.'”

Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now a host on MLB Network Radio, suggested on ESPN.com that the Tigers could get a deal done for Garza if they included top positional prospect Nick Castellanos with Turner, their top pitching prospect. The Tigers were not willing to include them both in a package to the A’s for Gio Gonzalez, on whom they had serious discussions and seemingly valued more.

“Now, they won’t even do Turner for Garza,” Gammons continued. “In fact, the Tigers staff is saying to the front office, you know what, we can open the season with Turner as the fifth starter and see what happens.”

Gonzalez, whom Oakland traded to Washington last month, is four years away from free agency, as well as left-handed. Garza, a right-hander, has just two years left before he can hit the open market. Detroit’s rotation currently has four right-handers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Tigers announce spring training invites

The list of non-roster invites to spring training is out, both for minor-league free agents and for Tigers prospects. Most of the names have already been announced, or at least strongly hinted it. Some haven’t. That includes third-base prospect Nick Castellanos.

Castellanos was an extra player at a few games last spring, but he’ll be in camp every day this time around, at least for the first few weeks. So will last year’s first-round top pick, James McCann, who will serve as one of the extra catchers to catch some of the many pitchers in camp. Drew Smyly, reigning Tigers minor-league pitcher of the year, was also announced as a non-roster invite.

Here’s the full list, which actually isn’t a very long list compared with past years:

  • RHP: Chris Bootcheck
  • LHPs: Darin Downs, Drew Smyly
  • Catchers: Rob Brantly, Curt Casali, Bryan Holaday, Patrick Leyland, James McCann, Omir Santos
  • Infielders: Nick Castellanos, Audy Ciriaco, Argenis Diaz, Ryan Strieby
  • Infielders/outfielders: Justin Henry, Eric Patterson
  • Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Jerad Head, Matt Young

The Tigers also made their reporting dates official. Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 19, with the first workout the next day. Most pitchers, however, will be in camp before that. The first full-squad workout is February 24.

Castellanos, Ruffin, Smyly agree to terms with Tigers

The Tigers continued their solid record of signing their top draft picks, but they had to go into the wee hours of Monday night to do it. They agreed to terms with their top three Draft picks — first-rounders Nick Castellanos and Chance Ruffin as well as second-rounder Drew Smyly.

Castellanos agreed to terms just a few minutes before the midnight ET deadline. It was close enough that Major League Baseball officials went into Tuesday morning to review the case and make sure he agreed on time. If it was ruled he hadn’t agreed by midnight, the Tigers would’ve lost his rights, and he would’ve had to decide to either go to school or to play independent ball. He had a scholarship offer to play at the University of Miami.

“It was stressful,” Castellanos said by phone early Tuesday morning. “It was exciting. It was exhausting, now that I think about it. … I had an idea it was going to come down to the last minute, but I didn’t know it would come down to the very last minute.”

Castellanos, a high school infielder from Archbishop McCarthy High School in south Florida selected with the 44th overall pick, agreed to a contract that includes a $3.45 million signing bonus. The Tigers are expected to put him into their farm system as a third baseman

Ruffin, a University of Texas reliever taken with the 48th overall pick, agreed to terms with the club on a contract that includes a $1.15 million signing bonus. His signing came down earlier in the evening.

“It was pretty tough, all the good memories and great teams,” Ruffin said. “It was tough to leave all that behind. But it was time for me to move on and pursue a professional career.”

Smyly, the University of Arkansas left-handed

The son of former Major League pitcher Bruce Ruffin, his negotiations took longer than some might’ve expected as he weighed whether to return to a talented Longhorns squad or start advancing towards the big leagues now.

His signing adds another talented relief arm to a Tigers farm system that already has quite a few. Ruffin has been projected by some as a pitcher who could progress quickly through the system, and has garnered comparisons to Major League closer Huston Street. He isn’t the prototypical power arm the Tigers usually go for, but he has a good arm and a solid track record with the Horns.

Smyly will receive a $1.1 million signing bonus, according to Baseball America. The University of Arkansas left-hander, who was eligible as a sophomore this year, helped his Draft stock with a breakout season for the Razorbacks. He could’ve gone back for his junior season and done the same thing in next year’s Draft, but opted to capitalize now.

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