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03/28/08 8:02 PM ET

Tigers send Hessman to Triple-A

Infield set, questions remain for backup catcher, bullpen

HOUSTON -- The Tigers outrighted infielder Mike Hessman to Triple-A Toledo on Friday afternoon as Detroit moves closer to finalizing its Opening Day roster.

"I think there's a good chance before we leave here tomorrow the roster will be set," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Friday night's game against Houston. "I can't swear to it, but I think so."

Hessman was batting .235 with a home run and three RBIs in 34 at-bats this spring. The 30-year-old third baseman hit .235 in 17 games for the Tigers last season and went .254 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs at Toledo.

Hessman's departure leaves the Tigers set on the infield with Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, Ramon Santiago and Brandon Inge. Inge can also play outfield and serve as backup catcher.

"There were some rumblings that a couple of teams were asking about [Hessman]," Leyland said. "I was hoping he'd get a shot somewhere. He's a good player. Tremendous defensively, a good accurate arm [and can] play first or third base."

For the player's sake Leyland was hoping Hessman would get a chance to play.

"He's a nice player to have in our organization obviously so from that standpoint we're happy," Leyland said. "Good guy, he helped us last year."

Left-hander Tim Byrdak, given his unconditional release on Wednesday, has cleared waivers and is now a free agent.

The Tigers are still considering whether non-roster invitee Dane Sardinha has a possibility to back up starting catcher Ivan Rodriguez, as Vance Wilson is expected to open the season on the disabled list. Inge is a possibility, but he is expected to take the injured Curtis Granderson's place as the starting center fielder.

The only candidates in camp for relief spots are right-handers Yorman Bazardo and Aquilino Lopez. However, the Tigers could still bring in another pitcher from another team, either via a trade or waiver claim.

Leyland indicated nothing was imminent on that front.

"As of right now I still can't commit to anything," he said. "Our decisions are pretty well made, but that could change."

Rosters must be reduced to 25 players by Opening Day.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.