As is usually the case, the Tigers closer situation is uncertain heading into the offseason. That’s because the guy they finally got to stick in the role this past season — Joaquin Benoit — is a free agent. Dave Dombrowski addressed the closer role and other matters yesterday, and John Lowe of the Free Press has the story.
Upshot: sounds like they’re not messing around with Bruce Rondon again. Maybe he’s in the major league bullpen mix, but the Tigers are going to try for a proven closer (to the extent that term means anything). Benoit is one of the proven closer candidates, by the way. Because unlike last May he is now proven. Or something.
Also: Dombrowski surprised no one in saying that it’s unlikely that Jhonny Peralta will be back. They have a shortstop in Jose Iglesias, he said, and while Peralta got some time in left field for Detroit in the playoffs, they still think of him as an infielder. You figure that Peralta will shop himself as a shortstop too, given the relative dearth of offense at that position in the game.
Oh, and go to the end of the article for the mention of Robinson Cano. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone mention him and the Tigers in the same breath. My assumption is that it’ll be among the last too, as the Tigers’ payroll is already huge. Of course I didn’t think they’d sign Prince Fielder until the moment they did too, so never say never.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉