LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had a lot of traffic going between Detroit and Toledo last year, and figure to have at least as many moves back-and-forth between the Major Leagues and Triple-A this season. As the organization prepares to rebuild through the farm system over the next few years,
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had a lot of traffic going between Detroit and Toledo last year, and figure to have at least as many moves back-and-forth between the Major Leagues and Triple-A this season. As the organization prepares to rebuild through the farm system over the next few years, it will keep the Glass City as the final step on the developmental path to Comerica Park.
The Tigers and Mud Hens announced a two-year extension to their player development agreement on Friday, keeping Toledo as Detroit's Triple-A affiliate through at least 2020.
"The relationship between the Tigers and Mud Hens dates back to 1987, making it the fourth-longest active Triple-A affiliate across baseball," Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield said in a statement. "The Mud Hens play a significant role in developing our prospects for the Major League level and we're thrilled that Mud Hens fans will continue to have the opportunity to watch Tigers stars of tomorrow for the years to come."
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Though the extension had been expected, there was some urgency to complete it, given recent shifts in the International League. The Mets' move to purchase the Triple-A team in Syracuse left the Washington Nationals without their longtime Triple-A club beyond this season.
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Many organizations have been trying to build the close relationship -- distance-wise and developmentally -- that the Tigers have had with Toledo for the last 30 years. Thirty-two players spent time with the Tigers and Mud Hens last season, from rehab assignments like J.D. Martinez and James McCann, to rebound project Anibal Sanchez, to prospects Joe Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario.
"It's actually a really nice situation, where if something happens at a night game and you have a day game the next day, you can have a player join you really quick," new Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And Toledo's a great baseball town. We played plenty of games there through my Minor League career. I'm really excited about that."
The Hens are expected to see another influx of young talent this season. Slugging outfielder Christin Stewart, infielder Dawel Lugo and catcher Grayson Greiner could open with the club, while top pitching prospects Franklin Perez and Beau Burrows could be promoted during the summer if they open at Double-A Erie as expected. They'll have a Toledo native as manager, as Toledo-born Doug Mientkiewicz takes over.
"I just know Dougie," said Gardenhire, who managed Mientkiewicz in Minnesota and watched him as a manager in the Twins system. "I know he's a really good hitting teacher. I know how well the players in Minnesota responded to him. He voices his opinion, and he's really loud, but that's OK. I don't want people that don't voice their opinion. He's just a game-on guy, and he's very sure of himself and he is a knowledge baseball guy and a good teacher."
• Though Gardenhire requested music for Spring Training workouts earlier this week, setting up the back fields with sound has taken longer than expected.
"Tomorrow, we might just have a regular boombox out there," Gardenhire said. "Eventually, we're going to get speakers."
• Left-hander Travis Wood had a follow-up exam on his injured right index finger Friday. Wood, who sliced open the finger in a crossbow accident last month, is hoping to have the pin removed from the finger shortly. The lefty has been throwing in camp, but hasn't been cleared to catch.
• Shane Greene, who ended last season as the Tigers' closer following Justin Wilson's trade to the Cubs, comes into camp as the closer, according to Gardenhire. The closer's role is "his to lose," according to Gardenhire, "and we'll go from there."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.