Porcello and Perry earn roster spots
Larish and Clevlen compete for final bench opening
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry have a combined 38 games of professional baseball experience, none of it above Class A ball. But they'll have two spots on the Tigers' 12-man pitching staff.
In the end, talent won out over the experience. The Tigers made the moves to finalize their pitching staff on Wednesday, optioning left-hander Clay Rapada to Triple-A Toledo and assigning right-hander Scott Williamson to Minor League camp.
The rest were informed they'll make the team. That includes the 20-year-old Porcello, who will take a spot in Detroit's rotation, and the 22-year-old Perry, who will pitch out of the bullpen. Other pitchers who made it include non-roster candidates Juan Rincon and Eddie Bonine.
Zach Miner was also informed he'll be a Tigers starter, taking the spot of injured Jeremy Bonderman. He and Porcello will join Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga in the rotation. Nate Robertson, who was fighting for a starting job, will pitch out of the bullpen.
After Verlander and Jackson start the first two games of the season at Toronto, Miner will face the Blue Jays in the third game next Wednesday. Porcello will make his debut in the series finale next Thursday afternoon. Galarraga will start the Tigers' home opener against Texas on April 10.
"That worked out like I had hoped," said Leyland, who wanted to reward Galarraga for his breakout 2008 season by having him pitch the home opener.
On the positional side, three more moves brought the Tigers within one move of finalizing the bench. Utility man Ryan Raburn, who has been the subject of trade rumors, was instead optioned to Triple-A Toledo along with catcher Dane Sardinha. Corner infielder Mike Hessman, meanwhile, was placed on waivers and informed he will not make the team.
That leaves left-handed hitter Jeff Larish and outfielders Brent Clevlen in camp and one roster spot to announce. Larish is expected to win the job, with the Tigers waiting until the end of camp to make a move on Clevlen, who's out of options and would have to clear waivers to be outrighted to Triple-A Toledo.
Though Leyland said choosing Bonine over Rapada was one of his toughest decisions, the biggest decisions were the two kids who will be leaving with the big club to start the season. Though Porcello has only one year of Minor League experience, his pitching, apparent maturity and learning capacity convinced team officials he's ready to make the jump.
"First, I think he's one of our best starting pitchers," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday. "He's throwing strikes. He's confident and mature beyond his years. He's very mature. He's very talented."
Dombrowski had told fans and reporters over the winter that Perry would wow them when they first saw him in Spring Training. Making the big league club, however, is altogether different, and something Dombrowski didn't expect.
Beyond mixing his pitches and attacked the strike zone, Perry has shown an established reliever's mentality.
"He has shown me and everybody I've talked to that he's a very tough individual," Dombrowski said.
Porcello allowed four earned runs on 16 hits over 13 2/3 innings this spring, striking out seven. Perry gave up a lone run on eight hits over 10 2/3 innings with seven walks and 11 strikeouts.
The Tigers had been gauging interest in Raburn, Hessman and others over the back half of camp. While utility man Ramon Santiago is a valued backup at second and shortstop, the Tigers are deep in middle infielders in their farm system. Larish's emergence as a third baseman and left fielder overlaps two other positions where Raburn and Hessman have played in Detroit. Add in Anderson's speed and defense in all three outfield spots, and the Tigers have their positions covered to the point where they could swing a deal and not lack for depth.
However, while Raburn has drawn limited interest in the National League, no deal has materialized as of yet. Dombrowski said, in general, that he has had as much trade conversation as he's ever had in Spring Training, and left open the possibility, but reiterated that they're unlikely to swing a deal at this point.
In Raburn's case, no scenarios warranted waiting on a roster move, or saving his lone remaining Minor League option. And Dombrowski said no potential talks would've affected their moves Wednesday.
No clubs appeared close to a deal on Hessman, but he still could end up being moved. Multiple teams in Japan have expressed interest in the big right-handed slugger since the end of the last season, and the Tigers are expected to listen to offers and try to accommodate a deal. If not, Hessman indicated he would accept another outright assignment to Triple-A Toledo.
Williamson, too, is expected to accept the assignment to Toledo, where his comeback story will continue as he waits for a call to return to the Majors.
"I think Scott Williamson has an excellent chance," Leyland said. "You're talking about a pretty big-time Major League pitcher at one time."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.