Tigers trim nine players from roster
Four pitchers sent down during second round of cuts
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' second round of cuts this spring brought them close to an Opening Day roster. Detroit reduced its camp population by nine players on Tuesday morning, including four pitchers.
Right-hander Virgil Vasquez and outfielder Brent Clevlen were optioned to Triple-A Toledo. The non-roster players assigned to Minor League camp were pitchers Freddy Dolsi, Chris Lambert and Preston Larrison, catchers Max St. Pierre and Nick Trzesniak and infielders Michael Hollimon and Scott Sizemore.
The moves reduced the Tigers' Spring Training roster to 37 players. That includes catcher Vance Wilson and right-handers Fernando Rodney, Jordan Tata and Joel Zumaya, who will be placed on the Major League disabled list when camp ends, and Francisco Cruceta, who has not yet arrived. That leaves 32 active players in camp.
"I just think to get our group together [is important]," Leyland said. "They start communicating a little better in the clubhouse. They start bumping into guys that are only going to be with us, for the most part. And you get that communication level going. That kind of stuff, I think, is very important. I think it's time to do that."
The moves further whittle the size of the bullpen, too. Among the relievers left in camp vying for the final spot or two are Denny Bautista, Yorman Bazardo, Francis Beltran and Aquilino Lopez. Clay Rapada is also still in camp and pitched in his first game of the spring Tuesday, allowing a run on two hits in one-third of an inning, but he is expected to open the season at Triple-A Toledo.
Though Vasquez worked out of the bullpen this spring, with only one outing longer than three innings, he'll fall into the starting rotation for the Mud Hens. He went 12-5 with a 3.48 ERA and two complete games last season in Toledo, pitching 155 innings.
His key will be to keep the ball down rather than letting it wander up into the zone.
"It's just a matter of him refining a couple of pitches as well as getting the ball down," Leyland said. "[He] could be a big league pitcher."
Larrison and Dolsi were in the bullpen mix, but both faced long odds. Larrison allowed one run on six hits over seven innings this spring until a rough inning of work last Saturday against the Yankees, who scored three runs -- one earned -- on him with two hits and two walks.
"To me, Larrison still has a great future if he [adjusts] a couple things," Leyland said.
Dolsi, too, had an encouraging spring until five runs over the last two outings raised his ERA to an even 9.00. Lambert, a right-hander the Tigers received from St. Louis in the Mike Maroth trade last summer, pitched 7 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
Hollimon and Sizemore both played in 16 games as reserve middle infielders in relief of Edgar Renteria and Placido Polanco, among others. Sizemore, who has yet to play a game above Class A ball, went 7-for-25 with a home run, two RBIs and six walks. Hollimon went 3-for-24 before dislocating his shoulder while trying to make a diving play at third base Monday against Cincinnati.
The good news for Hollimon is that the injury isn't serious. Tests conducted Tuesday showed no structural damage to the shoulder, and he isn't expected to miss much time.
Cruceta's situation remains up in the air. He still has not been granted a visa to enter and work in the United States, and as a government matter, it's out of the Tigers' hands.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski reserved comment on the team's options if the matter remains unresolved by Opening Day, preferring to wait until they reach that point. In theory, the Tigers could apply to Major League Baseball to place Cruceta on the restricted list if he can't report after the season begins.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.