Who will be the Tigers’ first wave of reinforcements?
Detroit — Well, we have some extra time on our hands, what with Opening Day at Comerica Park postponed until Friday.
So, let’s do a little forecasting.
We know this is Year One of the Tigers’ rebuild. We know, because general manager Al Avila has said it repeatedly, that there’s bound to be regular, if not constant, alterations to the active roster.
We also know the Tigers’ waited until the 11th hour to submit their 25-man roster to the league because they were scouring the waiver and transaction wires for potential roster upgrades. That process doesn’t end with the start of the regular season.
There is going to be movement — in and out of the organization; up and down within the organization. Let’s focus on the latter. Who’s coming next? Which players within the system might we see in Detroit sooner than later — before September — this season?
The Tigers added veterans Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano, but the ranks remain thin.
Fiers is starting the season on the disabled list, but should be ready early in April. That would probably send Daniel Norris back to Triple-A Toledo.
After that, though, the options available on the 40-man roster would be left-handers Chad Bell (who is likely to be up this season, either as a starter or reliever), Ryan Carpenter and Gregory Soto, plus right-handers Artie Lewicki, Spencer Turnbull and Sandy Baez.
Soto hasn’t pitched above High A and Baez finished last season at Double-A Erie. The Tigers would prefer not to rush either of them to the big leagues.
If you consider Norris the No. 6 starter and Bell No. 7, then the No. 8 starter most likely is Carpenter, who is starting the season in Toledo. Bell and Carpenter are probably first in line to come up.
If the injury bug hit the rotation early, especially with long-term injuries, the Tigers would probably look outside the organization. Or, they could stretch out any one of three members of the bullpen — Warwick Saupold, Buck Farmer or Alex Wilson.
Because of the importance and projected effectiveness of Wilson and Farmer in relief roles, Saupold might be the best option. There are those in the organization who feel his repertoire is best suited for a starting role.
The list of possible bullpen call-ups is long. It includes all of the pitchers mentioned above.
Right-hander Johnny Barbato, who may have made the team out of spring training had it not been for a forearm strain that sidelined him late in camp, will come off the disabled list in early April, as well.
Expect him to be among the first call-ups to the bullpen.
After that, other 40-man roster candidates include right-handers Paul Voelker and Zac Reininger. The Tigers took a long look at Voelker toward the end of spring and he performed well.
Better options, though, are pitchers not presently on the 40-man roster. (By the way, the front office isn’t so enamored with its 40-man roster that it’s any kind of hardship to add and subtract as they see fit.)
Right-handers Mark Montgomery, Kevin Comer and Victor Alcantara — all non-roster invitees — pitched well enough this spring to warrant consideration.
Normally, you would assume Blaine Hardy would be the first left-hander called up from Toledo. He’s been a mostly reliable reliever in Detroit for parts of the last four seasons. But the Tigers put him through waivers and outrighted him to Toledo last week.
It’s hard to read whether that was just a business decision or whether they’ve written him out of their plans. Hardy, though, is certainly capable of pitching his way back into them quickly.
The Tigers signed a few veteran, non-roster players as insurance against injury or trade.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop-third baseman Pete Kozma and utility man Ronny Rodriguez all should be at the ready, starting the season at Triple-A Toledo.
Also in that category is first baseman-designated hitter Edwin Espinal.
Younger infield options include Kody Eaves, who can play second and third, and Gabriel Quintana, who plays third and first. Those are all non-roster players.
Shortstop Sergio Alcantara and second baseman Dawel Lugo, both on the 40-man roster, need more development. The Tigers aren’t expected to start their big-league service time clocks this early.
There are three players who are likely to be in a Tigers’ uniform at some point this year — Jim Adduci, Mike Gerber and Christin Stewart.
Adduci could get the call if the Tigers needed a short-term fill-in at first base or designated hitter, as well.
If outfielder Chad Huffman stays in the organization — he was a non-roster invitee — he, too, would be an option at first base, designated hitter or outfield.
Jason Krizan, a non-roster outfielder, is also an option. He could fill in at second base as well as the two corner outfield spots.