LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers will not have a closer at third base.

If manager Jim Leyland's earlier statements on Miguel Cabrera playing nine innings at third base without a defensive replacement weren't already clear, he said it again Monday, this time with authority.

Perhaps part of it is a statement about Cabrera's work at third base so far this spring. A bigger part, though, seems to be the fact that Leyland doesn't want to take his best hitter out of the lineup and then have to try to win without him if the other team ties the game.

"He's the third baseman," Leyland said. "That's the way it is and I'm not 'defensing' for him. I've seen that too many times."

Monday was the first time on the Spring Training schedule that Cabrera didn't get in early-morning work at third base before a home game. The team had a meeting with Major League Baseball personnel on security, which took up the time slot in which Cabrera and Don Kelly normally get their extra work from infield coach Rafael Belliard.

Cabrera was involved in two plays in Monday's game against the Mets. He couldn't run down Jordany Valdespin's slow roller in the fifth inning as part of New York's six-run rally. But two batters later, he made an aggressive play on Justin Turner's groundout to try to start a double play, a twin killing that was thwarted by a low throw from Eric Patterson to first.

Trio has Tigers covered at second base

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said multiple times he's nowhere close to choosing a fifth starter. He doesn't sound much closer to deciding on his mix at second base, either.

When New York writers asked him about his options at second, Leyland was quick with a retort.

"I'm covered from here until the end of time at second base," Leyland said. "If I can play three of them out there, I'd be good."

Leyland's problem there does not appear to be a roster decision, but a playing time decision between the players he has. That's why he's keeping that decision separate from the three problems he listed -- choosing a fifth starter, filling the one open spot in the bullpen, and deciding on a last position player.

A day after Ryan Raburn had another productive game at second base, Brandon Inge started Monday against the Mets and went 1-for-3 with a run scored.

"Second base is not a problem," Leyland said. "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."

Tigers part ways with struggling righty Pauley

LAKELAND, Fla. -- What clicked for Doug Fister in his deal to Detroit didn't click for David Pauley. It's the degree to which their fates were vastly different.

While Fister takes the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium on Tuesday morning, trying to build up the innings to resume his role near the front end of the Tigers' rotation, Pauley will be looking for a new job. After an obscure stretch run in Detroit's bullpen last year, followed by three shaky outings this spring, the Tigers gave the right-hander his unconditional release.

The Tigers could have waited until later in camp, or they could have tried to sneak him through to the Minors, but they knew this was coming, just as Pauley did. By doing it now, they give him time to find a new team in time for Opening Day and search for a fit that can bring him back to the form he had in Seattle last year.

"You can look for a thousand different reasons. It just didn't work," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's pretty much as simple as it is. By his own admission, I think he felt the same way. It just wasn't working here for whatever reason. I just didn't push the right button, or whatever.

"It just didn't work here, and I think the more simple you keep it, the better off you are. Because it's certainly nothing he did wrong, other than he didn't pitch the way we felt he was capable of pitching."

Pauley was the other part of the Tigers' return in the Fister trade last July, a 28-year-old reliever who posted some of the best numbers of his career as a Mariner through the first four months of 2011. He allowed just 38 hits over 54 1/3 innings in Seattle, walking 16 and striking out 34.

It seemed like a natural fit, a good middle reliever for a team needing a bridge to its late-inning arms. But Pauley's fortunes changed abruptly as soon as he changed uniforms. He allowed as many earned runs in 19 2/3 innings as a Tiger as he did over all those innings as a Mariner, giving up 26 hits in the process.

Moreover, the previously struggling Detroit bullpen seemed to find new life shortly after the trade. Pauley went 10 days between outings in mid-August, and he pitched just one-third of an inning over a two-week stretch. He had more work in September, but he didn't have a place on the postseason roster.

Leyland made a point to say early in camp that they hadn't forgotten about Pauley, that he could be a good piece. But after giving up a run on three hits in an inning on March 5, Pauley went a few days without throwing. His contention for a relief spot all but ended once he gave up four runs on five hits while recording just two outs Friday against the Phillies.

"I've been in this game a long time," Pauley said. "You know when these things are coming. Obviously, you never want to be in this situation, but you have to perform to stay in this game. And I didn't. It's no fault besides my own."

Asked why it didn't work, Pauley was at a loss, like Leyland.

"I felt the whole time my stuff was good," Pauley said. "Just this spring, I gave up some hits. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes. When I came over here, I came over with a clear head and ready to go. Sometimes it just doesn't go that way."

Tigers look forward to reuniting with prospects

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While the Tigers cut ties with right-hander David Pauley, they're hoping to eventually renew ties with the eight youngsters they sent to Minor League camp on Monday. In at least a few cases, their performances in camp gave the Tigers every reason to believe they'll be back at some point in the coming years.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos, Detroit's top position prospect, was among those assigned to Minor League camp. So were catchers Rob Brantly, Curt Casali, Patrick Leyland and James McCann, as well as utility man Justin Henry. Two other prospects, outfielder Avisail Garcia and second baseman Hernan Perez, were advised that their contracts will be optioned out on Thursday. Garcia will be assigned to Double-A Erie, with Perez going to Class A Lakeland.

None of those moves were surprising. Leyland had strongly hinted on Sunday that it was time to send out the prospects and let them play regularly in Minor League camp.

"I think we sent out eight prospects, some of them a little better than others," Leyland said.

Castellanos had just four plate appearances this spring, not counting the Florida Southern College exhibition, yet showed his promise in early workouts. Garcia saw late-inning action as a reserve outfielder, going 2-for-7 with a double and making a handful of running catches in right field. He turned one into a spectacular double play when he fired from foul territory in right field to third base to nab a runner trying to tag up.

"He's just one of those premier prospects," Leyland said.

The catching prospects are annually among the first cuts, once the Tigers get deeper into game action. Leyland got all of them into game action to some extent, enough for Leyland, Brantly, Castali and McCann to record base hits.

The moves reduce Detroit's camp roster to 48 players.

Quick hits

• Brennan Boesch left Monday's game after just one plate appearance, but the early exit was not due to an injury. Boesch said it was just a normal move. Clete Thomas replaced him in right field and went 1-for-3 before Avisail Garcia pinch-hit in the ninth.

• Tigers manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to praise Lakeland operations director Ron Myers and Bill Tinsley, the City of Lakeland's special liaison to the Tigers, for their work this spring to help camp run smoothly.

"Their cooperation, the stuff they've set up and helped us with and the job they do with the fans and everything, has been unbelievable, fantastic," Leyland said. "We're really proud of that relationship and they've just been doing a heck of a job. I think you can see that by the attendance and everybody having a good time. The relationship is really, really good."