CHICAGO -- The Tigers' relative success this season has been a pleasant surprise for many, but it will not change the team's plans, either this season or in the long-term. If anything, general manager Al Avila sees it as a sign that they're headed in the right direction.
"It's good that the team is winning," Avila said Sunday morning. "What it shows is that we have young players here that have talent.
"When you put together a team of good young players like we have, you would hope that they rise to the occasion and play to their capabilities. Some will, some won't, just like when you draft players or you sign players in the Latin market and you bring them through your system. The hope is that you have more that perform well than don't, and right now we have been performing well. [Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire] has done a great job, [pitching coach Chris] Bosio's done a great job, the coaching staff. We're on a good path, and there's nothing bad about that."
The start, combined with Cleveland's struggles to pull away in the American League Central, has left Detroit on the fringe of contention for the American League Central lead. But don't expect the Tigers to load up on veteran talent to try to make a run. They've passed on signing anyone in the wake of Jose Cabrera's season-ending biceps surgery, and they'll take a similar internal approach at other spots.
"You've got veteran guys like Adrian Gonzalez out there and Hanley Ramirez. Well, for me, I'd rather go with our young players and see what they can do," Avila said. "[John] Hicks right now at first base, he's improved defensively. Obviously it's a work in progress, but you see improvement as we go along. He's hitting the ball well. For him it's a tremendous opportunity, because he knows he can catch at the big leagues, he knows he can play first base, obviously he can DH on any given day. So he's a great asset. So why would you want to go out and get a guy who's 39, 40 years old, at this stage of where we're at? So we feel we have the right guys in place right now, and we have some younger guys in the Minor Leagues that will be working themselves up, so that's the way we're going."
As for trading away guys next month, as they did last year, Avila said the club will listen. It's too early to say whether Nicholas Castellanos and Michael Fulmer could be part of the long-term plans, Avila continued, but they're not ruling anything out.
"I don't have a mandate to trade anyone," Avila said. "And we've not picked up the phone, and we're not going to pick up the phone and say we're trading so-and-so. That's not our intent here.
"Our intent here is to be open-minded, and if somebody offers us something that quite frankly makes us better as we move forward, then we have to really seriously consider that. And as we do move forward, which are the guys here that we feel may be here for the long-term? That's not a decision that we could make a month ago, or that we can make right now. I think that's a decision that, as we move forward, it will get us closer to that."
Other items of note from Avila
• Franklin Perez, the Tigers' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has been out since mid-March with a lat strain but is throwing off a mound in Lakeland, Fla., and could be ready to make his organizational debut next month.
"Toward the end of the month, I'll know more as far as when we'll get him into a game," Avila said. "Our thought was sometime in July. Two good months out of him, and then possibly the Arizona Fall League."
• Asked when fellow pitching prospect Alex Faedo could be promoted from Class A Lakeland to Double-A Erie, Avila said, "I would say you should follow very closely. He's coming."
• Top pick Casey Mize will likely pitch somewhere in the farm system this summer now that his college season is over at Auburn. Faedo, the Tigers' top pick last season, did not pitch last summer after leading Florida to the College World Series. Mize has not yet officially signed.