03/03/12 6:35 PM EST
Leyland believes fifth starter will come in-house
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
While the Tigers are like many other big league clubs needing to fill out a rotation spot, the fact that they have six candidates -- none of them with more than half a season in the big leagues -- makes them a rarity. So far, however, manager Jim Leyland likes what he sees.
More than anything, Leyland likes talent. And he sees enough talent to believe they have a Major League ready starter in camp that can fill the role right now. In fact, Leyland says, they might have more than one.
"We truly believe that we've got the guy," Leyland said. "Who it is, I don't know."
On Saturday, Jacob Turner became the first of the candidates to face Major League competition in a game, tossing a perfect inning against the Braves in relief of Doug Fister. Leyland said before the game that Turner will get the start Wednesday against the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Leyland did not say who would follow Turner in a game he already said would be a "piggyback start," with the reliever stretching out for roughly the same work as the starter. Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby and Drew Smyly all pitched Friday against Florida Southern and could pitch on turn Wednesday.
Other candidates include Duane Below and Adam Wilk, both of whom spent time with the Tigers last season.
"To be honest," Leyland said, "I think we've got four for sure, maybe five that can do it."
Below and Wilk, and maybe others, could compete to fill the one bullpen void if they don't win the starter's role.
Leyland has said more than once that it would be a positive message -- both for Tigers Minor Leaguers and the organization's amateur scouts -- if they could go with one of their in-house candidates for the lone rotation opening. It also could help the Tigers better manage a payroll that neared $130 million with the Prince Fielder signing.
Leyland didn't eliminate the possibility of a trade for a starter. But if they swing one, it had better be good.
"If we go outside [the organization], it's going to have to be [for] somebody better than what we have here," Leyland said.
The other, lesser-noted scenario is that the Tigers come out of camp with a starting-pitching surplus. It probably wouldn't set up a trade out of camp, but it could create a stacked rotation at Triple-A Toledo for April and some potential trade pieces over the summer if they need an upgrade somewhere.
Deal or no deal, it would give the Tigers currency with one of the most expensive positions on the market.
Head displays power for Tigers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers gave fans at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex their first look at Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back-to-back against big league competition. But while Fielder had a pair of singles, the power display came from Jerad Head, homerless in 10 Major League games over a six-year pro career.
The Tigers signed Head from the Indians to add a veteran hitter at Triple-A Toledo, where the Mud Hens could have a vastly different lineup compared to last year. They invited him to big league camp for the chance to play more than compete for a spot. Yet with Delmon Young and Andy Dirks not on the trip Saturday, manager Jim Leyland decided to give him the start at designated hitter.
"This guy had a big year at Triple-A," Leyland said, "and because I left some guys home, it was a good time to [play him]. Who knows how much playing time he's going to get this spring? So I just slipped him in there today. He's got some Major League experience. Give him a shot to get a few at-bats. It worked out pretty good."
Head hit 41 home runs over the last two seasons between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He batted .284 last year for the Clippers with an .864 OPS, then spent most of November playing winter ball in the Dominican League for Licey.
Tigers fans gobbled up available tickets for Opening Day in less than 45 minutes Saturday morning, part of the unofficial holiday that is the first day of sales for Tigers single-game tickets each first Saturday in March.
Tickets to the April 5 opener against the Red Sox are still available for fans who purchase full and partial season tickets.
The entire Tigers 40-man roster is now under contract. The team agreed to terms on one-year contracts with Al Alburquerque, Brennan Boesch and Daniel Schlereth. The remaining three unsigned players -- Alex Avila, Doug Fister and Austin Jackson -- all had their contracts renewed by the team.
All three renewals are players who are eligible for arbitration next winter. In some cases, a renewal can be part of a player's argument going into an arbitration case later. It usually doesn't come into play with the Tigers, who haven't had to go to an arbitration hearing on a player since Dave Dombrowski took over as general manager 10 years ago.