St. Petersburg, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers finalized their Opening Day roster Tuesday after dropping their Grapefruit League finale, 9-3, to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Detroit sent catcher Cameron Rupp to Triple-A Toledo, which locked in the 25 players that will be active when the Tigers begin the regular season in Toronto on Thursday.
“We just wanted health,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll get out of here and everybody is alive. We’re going to get up in some cold air.
"That will refresh you a little bit.”
The Tigers will deploy an eight-man bullpen and begin the season with only three bench players. With a shorter bench, the team will lean on its versatility right away.
JaCoby Jones suffered a shoulder injury late in the spring, forcing the Tigers to explore alternatives in center field. Outfielders Dustin Peterson and Christin Stewart did not play a single inning in center field in 2018, so it will be up to Niko Goodrum and Mikie Mahtook to step in and fill the unexpected void.
“It’s just reads,” Mahtook said. “You see different reads from center, different reads from left and right. The ball comes off differently. I’ve played all three a lot.
"I’m comfortable with all three. As long as I’m out there, I’m happy.”
Typically, Mahtook waits to see the day’s lineup before determining which position he will prepare at during pregame warmups.
Comerica Park contains one of the larger outfields in Major League Baseball, but Mahtook believes his past experience playing there will aid his defense in center.
“It’s just deep,” said Mahtook. “Center field is deep, that gaps are deep. The ball flies a little bit differently out there. You just have to know that going in and prepare for it.”
Tigers' Opening Day roster
►Catchers (2): Grayson Greiner, John Hicks
►Infielders (5): Gordon Beckham, Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer
►Outfielders (5): Nick Castellanos, Niko Goodrum, Mikie Mahtook, Dustin Peterson, Christin Stewart
►Starting pitchers (5): Matt Boyd, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross, Spencer Turnbull, Jordan Zimmermann
►Relief pitchers (8): Victor Alcantara, Buck Farmer, Reed Garrett, Shane Greene, Blaine Hardy, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Norris, Daniel Stumpf
John A. Vittas is a freelance writer.