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With a week before season begins, Tigers' 30-man roster starting to take shape

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – This is what they talked about in that final team meeting in Lakeland back in March, before everybody scattered and sought shelter from the coronavirus. Stay ready, man. We don’t know when this is going to start back up, but when it does it’s going to come quick.

And here we are: The Tigers will open the season a week from Friday. A 60-game baseball season comes at you fast.

Miguel Cabrera takes batting practice at Detroit Tigers Summer Camp at Comerica Park on Wednesday.

“Sixty games, man,” veteran Jordy Mercer said. “Anything can happen. If you been in this game long enough, 60 games is crazy. All you’ve got to do is get hot for just a little bit and who knows what can happen?”

So it’s time to put away the shiny new toys – meaning the exciting and talented young prospects who have enlivened the first two weeks of camp – and get down to the business of readying the 30-man ensemble that will open the season in Cincinnati.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said last week that he expected the roster to be mostly set before the club played back-to-back exhibition games against the Reds at Great American Ballpark next Tuesday and Wednesday.

So what’s left to settle here in the next five days?

Starting rotation 

Barring an injury, four of the five spots are set. That fifth spot – Daniel Norris’ spot – is up for grabs.

Norris, who is in COVID-19 protocol, hasn’t pitched yet and though Gardenhire is loathe to rule him out, he’s running out of time.

Michael Fulmer would be a natural fit to slide in there, but he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and is still building his arm strength and trying to regain consistent command on all his pitches. Lefty Tyler Alexander might be the best option right now, either in the role alone or in a piggyback with Fulmer.

More: 'We like him': Shao-Ching Chiang dials up his pitch to stick with Tigers

By the time that fifth spot in the rotation rolls around for a third start, though, the Tigers might have another option – No. 1 prospect Casey Mize.

“I’d like to have him right now,” Gardenhire said Tuesday. “He’s moving really quick and for me, it can’t be quick enough.”

The Tigers will likely wait seven days at least so they don’t use up a year of Mize’s MLB service time.

Projected rotation: Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Ivan Nova, Jordan Zimmermann, Alexander/Fulmer.

Injured list: Norris.

Projected taxi squad: Mize, Matt Manning, Dario Agrazal, Tim Adleman, Alex Faedo (injured list), Tarik Skubal (injured list).

Bullpen

This will likely be the last position group to get set, and even then it will remain in flux the rest of the season. The big question right now is how many non-roster players does general manager Al Avila want to add to the 40-man roster? Another way of saying that, how many players currently on the 40-man roster can he risk waiving?

Left-handers Nick Ramirez and Hector Santiago, plus right-hander Shao-Ching Chiang are good candidates to make the active roster, all three are presently non-roster players.

Projected bullpen locks: Joe Jimenez (closer), Buck Farmer (set-up), Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto (lefty), Bryan Garcia, Rony Garcia (Rule 5), David McKay, Ramirez (lefty), Santiago (lefty) and Chiang.  

Projected taxi squad: John Schreiber, Nolan Blackwood, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser, Anthony Castro, Franklin Perez.

Catchers

The only question here is whether Gardenhire will push for three catchers on the roster, or be content to carry a third catcher among the three traveling taxi squad players.

Projected: Austin Romine, Grayson Greiner.

Taxi squad: Jake Rogers, Eric Haase, Dillon Dingler, Brady Policelli.

Infield

Barring injury, this seems set right now.

Projected: Miguel Cabrera (designated hitter), C.J. Cron (first base), Jonathan Scoop (second base), Niko Goodrum (shortstop), Jeimer Candelario (third base), Harold Castro (utility), Jordy Mercer (utility).

Taxi squad: Dawel Lugo, Willi Castro, Frank Schwindel, Spencer Torkelson, Isaac Paredes (injured list), Sergio Alcantara (injured list).

Outfield

The presence of Harold Castro, who can play all three outfield positions, makes it hard to guess how the Tigers might go here. They could just keep four outfielders and use Castro as the fifth.

Travis Demeritte was supposed to be in position to keep the fifth outfielder spot, but he’s been slowed by a sore groin. In his place, non-roster Jorge Bonifacio has gotten a long look.

Projected: Christin Stewart (left), JaCoby Jones (center), Victor Reyes (right and center), Cameron Maybin (right, left and center), Bonifacio (corner).

Taxi squad: Demeritte, Brandon Dixon, Derek Hill, Riley Greene, Daz Cameron (injured list).

Twitter @cmccosky