Clearwater, Fla. — There are just two issues to settle before the Tigers break camp — the final spot in the bullpen and the final two position-player spots.
That was what was left after the Tigers reassigned eight players Thursday morning.
Sent to Triple-A Toledo were left-handers Blaine Hardy and Chad Bell. Reassigned to minor-league camp were catchers Derek Norris and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, utility players Pete Kozma and Ronny Rodriguez, and outfielders Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman.
The roster stands at 28.
“We’re close, real close,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before the Tigers played the Phillies. “We feel pretty good about where we’re going to be starting off. It might not last long. We’re trying to go with 12 pitchers, so we will see how that lasts.
“If we have trouble early in games with our rotation, we might need more pitching.”
Assuming right-hander Mike Fiers starts in extended spring training because of his back stiffness, the rotation is set: Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer, Francisco Liriano, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris.
As for the bullpen: Closer Shane Greene, Alex Wilson, Drew VerHagen, Daniel Stumpf, Buck Farmer and Joe Jimenez appear to have secured roles. Warwick Saupold and Johnny Barbato are in the hunt for the last spot.
Either way, the Tigers will have just one left-handed pitcher, Stumpf, in the bullpen.
“We believe some of our right-handers can get lefties out, probably as good as they can get righties out,” Gardenhire said. “If you have pitchers with that kind of repertoire, then you are OK. Having a lefty just because he’s a lefty doesn’t always work out if he can’t get lefties out.”
Bell, who gave up just one run with seven strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings this spring, will be stretched out to start at Toledo. Hardy made just one spring appearance because of a shoulder impingement. Both are expected to be in Detroit at some point, possibly sooner than later.
“Let’s be honest, I was scheduled to only get three innings in before the team broke camp,” Hardy said. “So in my head, if they would’ve had me break with them, I would’ve been shocked. The fact that I got optioned today was a little bit of a shocker, but it’s a good thing.
“Now I can really get some work in down there. I will be ready when they need me.”
Bell certainly pitched well enough to win a spot, which is why he was more bemused by the move than Hardy was.
“I am a little frustrated with it,” he said. “I thought I had some good outings. But that’s just how the business side of it goes. I will go down and get the innings I need and be ready when they need me.”
On the position-player side, it appears that utility players Alexi Amarista and Niko Goodrum, as well as outfielder JaCoby Jones, are fighting for two spots.
Which means Rule 5 outfielder Victor Reyes has all but secured a spot.
“I am not going to announce that he’s made it,” Gardenhire said. “But he’s still here. And we like him.”
Jones is the wild card in the final position-player cuts. Whether he makes the club most likely will determine the fate of Goodrum.
Gardenhire has said he wants his utility player to be able to play outfield and infield — which is what Goodrum does. Amarista is more of an infield utility player. Thus, if Jones makes the team, Goodrum probably won’t, because Gardenhire wouldn't need another outfield option.
And if Jones starts the season in Toledo, then Amarista and Goodrum both win spots.
“The players we sent down need at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “A lot of these guys showed us they can do some things. Kozma, I love that kid. He can really pick it. He’s great depth for this organization.”
Kozma, who likely will start the season in Toledo, was signed to be insurance against a long-term injury at shortstop, third base or second base.
“Adduci we know can hit and Huffman can hit,” Gardenhire said. “Some of the people we sent out, we really like.”