Lobstein, who helped win AL Central, among Tigers cuts

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — Kyle Lobstein had to know it was coming. But it still had a hint of unfairness to it.

Lobstein was practically brilliant in his six starts for the Tigers late last season.

"Without Kyle Lobstein," said manager Brad Ausmus, "we don't win the division last year.

"But I think he saw the writing on the wall."

Lobstein, a lefty, was among four cuts by the Tigers on Tuesday afternoon, before that night's game against the Yankees in Tampa.

Also optioned out were right-handed relievers Alex Wilson and Josh Zeid, who will join Lobstein at Triple A Toledo, and right-hander Alberto Cabrera, who was sent to minor-league camp. His destination will be determined before the Tigers break camp.

None of the moves were wildly unexpected — there really hasn't be a surprising cut yet, but those should be coming soon —but they still sting.

Lobstein joined the Tigers last August, when Anibal Sanchez got injured, and he made six starts — of them, four were good, one was OK and one was bad. In any event, Detroit won four of his six starts, and won the American League Central by one game.

Ask folks around the game last August where the Tigers would finish if Lobstein had to make six starts, and the answers were not really pretty. But he proved a savior in many regards, yet still entered spring training knowing he likely wasn't going to make the major-league time.

The Tigers have their five starters, for now, as they're not ready to consider Alfredo Simon for a bullpen role, which is where he's fared better throughout his career.

And Detroit didn't want Lobstein, 25, moving to the bullpen — "He's been so successful as a starter," Ausmus said — after having made 150 of his 153 professional appearances as a starter. And even if they did, for once, Detroit has more than enough capable relievers. So unlike in previous seasons, there's no burning necessity for the Tigers to move a pitcher. Kyle Ryan has emerged as a multi-inning lefty, a role Lobstein would've been best-suited for had the Tigers needed to make the change.

In Toledo, Lobstein will work with new pitching coach Mike Maroth, a former Tigers lefty who wasn't a power pitcher. Neither is Lobstein.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones said of Lobstein.

Lobstein got the news in Lakeland, so he wasn't in Tampa, thus was unavailable for comment.

Not that he would've said much anyway.

He's a quiet guy, who goes about his business quietly.

"I asked him, 'What do you do in the offseason?' " Jones quipped. " 'Are you a mime?' "

Wilson, Zeid could see Detroit — eventually

Wilson and Zeid could be heard from in Detroit soon, as well.

Both entered camp with an outside shot to make the Tigers' bullpen, but once Detroit brought back Joba Chamberlain in mid-February, that pretty much locked in the five right-handers, at least to start.

There could be opportunities soon, though, as both closer Joe Nathan and Chamberlain have to pitch well to keep their jobs, and the leash might not be long. A team that's made a habit of winning divisions by a single game can't afford many bullpen meltdowns, whether they're early or late.

The Tigers' minor-league relief depth is too good to accept mediocrity or worse in the majors.

Wilson, 28, had a fine cameo out of the Red Sox bullpen last year before being traded to Detroit as part of the Rick Porcello-Yoenis Cespedes trade in December. Zeid, 28, was a waiver pickup from the Astros in November.

In Zeid's case, his velocity is down this spring after having surgery to repair bone fractures in both of his feet. Al Avila, Tigers assistant general manager, said Zeid can sit at 95 mph, not just hit 95 on occasion, and he's still below that. Makes sense. Pitchers who have feet surgery take time to fully trust their delivery, particularly the landing.

Zeid, by the way, received the news on his birthday.

Lineup hints

The spring is winding down. Opening Day is less than two weeks away.

But Ausmus still isn't interested in getting into the lineup decisions. He might've made them, but if he has, he's not sharing —because he hasn't shared them with the players yet.

This much he revealed Tuesday: He thinks Anthony Gose, who's had a great spring at the plate but still takes too many bad swings, could make a good leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers.

Rajai Davis could leadoff against lefties.

He also said Ian Kinsler and Alex Avila look like potential No. 2 hitters, but not Gose.

And asked to clarify who would hit fifth and who would hit six, J.D. Martinez or Cespedes, Ausmus balked at the question.

Still, clearly, the lineup is on his mind — even though it's likely to change a bunch of times throughout the season.

"One you you have to keep in mind with the lineup, you try to build a lineup that projects success over the long haul," Ausmus said. He added when you start tinkering, it's harder to project a level of success.

Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera was the designated hitter Tuesday night and will get some at-bats on the minor-league diamonds Wednesday. If all goes well there, he will make his debut at first base Thursday in Lakeland.

Victor Martinez will DH on Wednesday.

... Ausmus said he doesn't expect Martinez to play first base anytime in the near future, certainly not in spring training, given his recent knee surgery. His catching days, meanwhile, are completely over.

... Andrew Romine got the first-base reps Tuesday as he continues to work his way around the diamond vying for a super-utility spot on the roster. Another candidate, Hernan Perez, plays first Wednesday.

... Shortstop Jose Iglesias was to play five innings Tuesday, four or five Wednesday and another partial game Thursday. He'll start playing full games next week. So far, so good on the health of his shins.

... Right-hander Edgar De La Rosa was a great starter at Single A last year, but as a guy who can hit 100 mph, he has expressed interest in becoming a reliever. No final decision has been made.