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Gerber makes strong impression on Gardy

MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Mike Gerber was a long shot to crack the Tigers' outfield in camp, but he had a chance to make an impression on a new coaching staff on his way to Triple-A Toledo. As he packed his bags in the clubhouse and headed down the hall to Minor League camp on Tuesday, he had caught manager Ron Gardenhire's attention.

"The kid in center can play," Gardenhire said.

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Mike Gerber was a long shot to crack the Tigers' outfield in camp, but he had a chance to make an impression on a new coaching staff on his way to Triple-A Toledo. As he packed his bags in the clubhouse and headed down the hall to Minor League camp on Tuesday, he had caught manager Ron Gardenhire's attention.

"The kid in center can play," Gardenhire said.

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Gerber, who is the club's 11th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, was one of 11 cuts from Tigers camp Tuesday. Others included left-hander Ryan Carpenter and catcher Grayson Greiner, who like Gerber were optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Right-hander Sandy Baez and shortstop Sergio Alcantara were optioned to Double-A Erie, while right-hander Eduardo Jimenez was optioned to Class A Lakeland.

Video: WSH@DET: Gerber slugs a solo homer to right-center

Prospect Jake Rogers joins fellow catcher Arvicent Perez and right-handers Enrique Burgos, Kevin Comer and Mark Montgomery in being assigned to Minor League camp. The difference from assignments to options is semantics -- the former going to non-roster invites, the latter applying to players on the 40-man roster.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The big batch of moves coincide with the start of Minor League games at different levels, but it also comes around the time Gardenhire and coaches begin serious discussions on who to bring north on the Opening Day roster. While the future has been a recurring theme for the Tigers this Spring Training, it's about time for Gardenhire and general manager Al Avila to figure out who will be Tigers in the present.

Gerber isn't there yet, but as this spring showed, he's not far off.

"Last year, I felt like was my first year where I had a realistic shot," Gerber said. "This year, being on the roster really bumps that up a little bit. This will be the first year where it's realistic that I could be up there."

Gerber went 7-for-20 with three doubles, a home run and two RBIs this spring. His eight strikeouts were a cause for concern, though most of those came early in the Grapefruit League schedule.

"Something I've been working on the past couple years," Gerber said of his strikeouts.

The bigger impression Gerber made was in the outfield, where the Creighton University product made good reads and catches in all three spots. That's vital as the Tigers enter the season looking for insurance options should an injury or a trade force them to make a midseason move.

"You watch him run the ball down in center, and he could be a center fielder straight up," Gardenhire said. "But the more you're able to play, it gives you more options. Especially the way our roster is right now, we need people with versatility that can move around a little bit. We talked to all those guys about those things."

With Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes fighting for a spot and JaCoby Jones enjoying a resurgent spring, Gerber would've had a hard time avoiding Toledo, where he played just five games at the end of last season. If he keeps this up, he might not be there long.

Rogers impresses, but ...
Another youngster who impressed was Rogers, who showed in his first Tigers camp why MLB Pipeline ranked him as the top defensive catching prospect in baseball. Rogers not only showed off his glovework, he did so with flair, though maybe a little too much on one occasion for Gardenhire's liking.

Video: DET@NYM: Rogers easily throws out Kaczmarski

"He did it on one of the road games," Gardenhire said. "We struck a guy out, there was a runner, and he fired from his knees over the [batter's] shoulder. It wasn't pretty. I'll just put it that way. So I definitely talked to him very shortly after the game ended: 'I know you're a big shooter, but let's be a better shooter.' Not mean, just the basics of what we're trying to teach here."

That said, the skill set behind the flash was obvious.

"He's very athletic," Gardenhire said. "He has all the attributes of a good catcher in the making. I mean, this kid's got tools, really good tools, and he's intelligent behind the plate. Gets a little flashy at times, and I don't ever want to take too much of that away, but there's basic parts where we tried to clean him up a little bit, and he did during Spring Training."

Rogers will most likely open the season at Erie, having ended last season at Class A Advanced Lakeland.

"We like him a lot," Gardenhire said. "He's a talented young man. I think he's a really good future."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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