03/15/2013 6:22 PM ET
Tigers likely to stay course with closer
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jose Valverde is working out and throwing in the Dominican Republic, waiting for a situation with a team needing a closer, his agent told MLB.com. However, there are no indications the Tigers are considering changing course with their closer situation.
Agent Scott Boras told MLB.com in a phone interview that Valverde was throwing for scouts in his native country and throwing his fastball at his regular-season velocity of 93 mph. If so, that might ease concerns among teams that his fastball velocity of 91-92 mph during the postseason was a sign of a downward trend.
Boras said Valverde, who will turn 35 on March 24, could be ready in time for the start of the season or soon after, but he admitted he would have to get into a team's camp in the very near future to be ready for Opening Day. No deal appears to be imminent.
Unless something changes, no deal is coming from the Tigers, who have said from the start of the offseason to as recently as about a week ago that they would not be bringing back Valverde. Rookie Bruce Rondon threw his first perfect inning Thursday against the Mets in his bid to claim a share of the closer's job. Detroit could give him the job outright or use him in a closer-by-committee situation.
The Tigers could also look outside the organization for relief help, and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday he had been getting an uptick of calls from teams on trade activity. Detroit's decision on a closer, though, seems likely to linger until the final days of camp.
Kobernus continues to battle for outfield opening
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus started in left field Friday against Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero as Kobernus and Quintin Berry continued to battle for the opening in the outfield.
Kobernus, who spent last season at Double-A Harrisburg in the Washington Nationals' organization, went 0-for-3 and is batting .238 this spring. Berry is hitting .188.
Manager Jim Leyland was asked Friday if it were possible both speedsters might make the team.
"Possible," Leyland answered. "A longshot, but possible."
"The two questions you have to ask are: Which guy gives us the best chance to win a game? And which scenario gives us the best chance to win games? One is singular and one is plural," Leyland added. "That's what you have to figure out. That comes into play when you're figuring out your roster. Obviously, you want to win games. Plural. ... We're pretty well set, but there are a couple things at the end that are going to be a little hairy. A manager knows he's going to break a couple hearts before this is over."
Crosby optioned after showing glimpse of potential
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Friday, despite catching Jim Leyland's eye Thursday when Crosby struck out Landon Powell of the Mets with a 93-mph fastball.
"Hopefully, we won't need him, but we want to get him stretched out in case we do," Leyland said. "He got his feet wet last year. He's got an idea what it's like up here.
"Normally he backs off to 89 or so when he feels like maybe he's not going to throw it over the plate, but he ended up throwing that 93 over the plate and got a strikeout out of it," Leyland added, referring to the 24-year-old pitcher's effort Thursday. "That was good to see. He'll get to the point where he's able to pitch with that velocity more often. He's young yet."
Crosby had a 1.29 ERA in four appearances this spring.
The Tigers also assigned lefty Kenny Faulk to Minor League camp.
"He's got the equipment to be a Major League pitcher," Leyland said of Faulk. "It's up to him."
Leyland has more chances to see Rondon
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Bruce Rondon, the Tigers' rookie closer contender, is scheduled to pitch Saturday and again Monday as the Spring Training clock continues ticking and Jim Leyland needs to make a decision.
"He's got all the equipment, and that's what it takes," Leyland said. "But you can't make the team by default. You've got to go out and pitch. ... "He's definitely shown some progress. We're going to be running him out there. We've got a couple of weeks left.
"You can't just throw hard," Leyland continued. "You've got to have pitching ability. You've got to have an idea what you're doing. If you throw 100 mph five times in a row, you become 'Iron Mike.'"
Tigers' Minor Leaguer Carrillo suspended
Minor League right-hander Cesar Carrillo received a 100-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Carrillo, 28, was listed in January's Miami New Times report that linked several Major Leaguers to performance-enhancing substances and a recently-closed clinic in Miami.
The Tigers signed Carrillo to a Minor League deal last June. He pitched for High A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, going a combined 3-6 with a 6.23 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).
Carrillo is a former first-round Draft pick, selected No. 18 overall by the Padres in 2005. He spent six seasons in the Padres organization and was last with Houston before signing with the Tigers.
• The Tigers, who made the 2 1/2-hour trip to Port St. Lucie on Thursday to face the Mets, will make a three-hour trek to Jupiter on Saturday to play the Cardinals. Next week, they must make two lengthy trips to Viera against the Nationals. But Leyland is not complaining.
"You're talking to a guy who spent 18 years in the Minor Leagues," the Tigers manager said. "My first bus ride to join the Tigers (1964) was 1,200 miles. When you've ridden a bus from Montgomery, Ala., to Evansville, Ind., a three-hour bus ride is a piece of cake."
• Opening Day hurler Justin Verlander will make his next start in a Minor League game, pitching for the Toledo Mud Hens against Syracuse, the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, on Saturday.
• Octavio Dotel (Dominican Republic) is the only player on the Tigers' Major League roster who is still participating in the World Baseball Classic.
"We're going to have plenty of time to get our guys ready for the regular season," Leyland said. "If it [the Classic] is good for baseball, it's good. The commissioner is a lot smarter than I am."
• Leyland had words of praise for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who returns this season after managing San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League last year.
"As a guy who managed in the big leagues [Toronto (2005-08], got fired, then went down to Double-A, that shows me something," Leyland said. "He could have sat out. But he went down and managed Double-A. That was really impressive."
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.