Diving into the depths: Detroit Tigers

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Detroit Tigers
Rotation
1. Justin Verlander
2. Rick Porcello
3. Max Scherzer
4. Jeremy Bonderman
5. Nate Robertson
6. Armando Galarraga
7. Dontrelle Willis
8. Zach Miner
9. Phil Coke
10. Eddie Bonine
11. Alfredo Figaro
12. Phil Dumatrait
13. Brooks Brown
14. Luis Marte
15. Casey Crosby
While there’s an ace at the top of the rotation and a new stud closer in the pen, the Tigers still have plenty of uncertainty when it comes to their pitching staff. Bonderman will enter camp as the clear favorite for the fourth spot in the rotation if he shows his arm is sound. Robertson and Galarraga would seem to be the chief competitors for the fifth spot, but the door will be open in case Willis surprises. Miner should be the fallback if everyone else struggles.
Bullpen
1. Jose Valverde
2. Joel Zumaya
3. Ryan Perry
4. Phil Coke
5. Bobby Seay
6. Fu-Te Ni
7. Zach Miner
8. Armando Galarraga
9. Nate Robertson
10. Brad Thomas
11. Dontrelle Willis
12. Eddie Bonine
13. Daniel Schlereth
14. Casey Fien
15. Robbie Weinhardt
16. Jay Sborz
17. Enrique Gonzalez
18. Phil Dumatrait
19. Zach Simons
20. Luis Marte
21. Josh Rainwater
The Tigers will have more pitchers than roster spots if everyone gets through camp healthy. That could result in a return to Triple-A for Galarraga and walking papers for Willis. There are an awful lot of health question marks here, though. If Zumaya breaks down or Perry pitches his way back to the minors, then Galarraga might get a look as a setup man. Schlereth and Weinhardt are two others who could climb the list in a hurry.


Catcher
1. Gerald Laird
2. Alex Avila
3. Robinzon Diaz
4. Mike Rabelo
First base
1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Jeff Larish
3. Ryan Strieby
4. Kory Casto
Second base
1. Scott Sizemore
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Ryan Raburn
Third base
1. Brandon Inge
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Ryan Raburn
4. Jeff Larish
5. Don Kelly
Shortstop
1. Adam Everett
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Brent Dlugach
The Tigers appear to be leaning towards keeping the 23-year-old Avila as a part-time catcher, but they do have the option of letting him play regularly in Triple-A and going with Diaz as the backup to Laird. It could well come down to how Laird performs offensively this spring.
Left field
1. Ryan Raburn
2. Carlos Guillen
3. Wilkin Ramirez
4. Clete Thomas
5. Don Kelly
Center field
1. Austin Jackson
2. Casper Wells
3. Clete Thomas
4. Ryan Raburn
Right field
1. Magglio Ordonez
2. Clete Thomas
3. Wilkin Ramirez
4. Ryan Raburn
5. Don Kelly
Designated hitter
1. Carlos Guillen
2. Magglio Ordonez
3. Jeff Larish
4. Ryan Strieby
I considered holding off on the Tigers until the very end just to see if the Johnny Damon deal would get done. Damon would top the depth chart in left field and push Raburn back into a utility role, which would seem to be for the best. Raburn hit like a regular last year, but the Tigers need another hitter they can rely on. With two rookies and the injury-prone Guillen in the lineup, Raburn would still be set to play a major role.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.

Brad Ausmus out as Tigers manager

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The Tigers just announced that they will not be bringing Brad Ausmus back as manager in 2018. His contract was going to be up at the end of this season and they have decided not to renew it. Ausmus and his staff will manage the club for the final week of the season.

In the press release announcing the move, Tigers GM Al Avila said “[a]s we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it’s best that we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position.” He went on to praise Ausmus for “doing an admirable job under difficult circumstances, especially this season,” a clear reference to the club’s decision at mid-season to blow things up. Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez were traded in July and August, as were some more minor players. The club is clearly embarking on a lengthy rebuild of which Ausmus, who was brought in four years ago to lead a contending team, will not be a part.

In his four seasons at the helm the Tigers are 312-325. He won 90 games and the AL Central in his first season in 2014, but the Tigers were swept out of the ALDS in three games. In the past three seasons they finished fifth, second and will either finish in fourth or fifth this year. Injuries and poor bullpens have been the biggest problem, but clearly this Tigers team was supposed to win more over the past four years.

It’s unclear what direction the Tigers will take in their managerial search, but it’s clear they’re going to go outside of the organization, as Avila said in his statement that the status of the current coaching staff will be contingent on the wishes of whatever new manager they hire.

Happy trails, Brad Ausmus. Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager is now Baseball’s Most Handsome Unemployed coach.