LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire still has to sit down with his bosses in the Tigers' front office and his colleagues in analytics to decide who makes the Opening Day roster next week. Among their topics will be the possibility of an eight-man bullpen, the choice of a super utility
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire still has to sit down with his bosses in the Tigers' front office and his colleagues in analytics to decide who makes the Opening Day roster next week. Among their topics will be the possibility of an eight-man bullpen, the choice of a super utility player and the final spots in the rotation.
But after Victor Reyes churned out three hits in Tuesday's 8-3 win over the Yankees, the veteran manager sounds like he would like to bring the Rule 5 Draft pick north to Detroit with him.
"He's had plenty of opportunities, and he's taken advantage of them," Gardenhire said. "I think he likes it here. We like him here. So big decisions, but I don't see anything wrong. I really like this kid."
Such an endorsement is meaningful. While general manager Al Avila has emphasized that the Tigers are rebuilding around young talent, Gardenhire has been focused on trying to find ways to win as many games as they can this year. Those goals can coexist, but they can be tricky with Rule 5 picks, who must remain on the roster for the season or be offered back to their original team.
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Detroit carried out-of-options infielder Dixon Machado in a similar role on a win-now team last year, but he already had Major League experience. Reyes has yet to play above Double-A ball. Moreover, the Tigers had a four-man bench last year; Gardenhire is considering opening the season with eight relievers, which would reduce Detroit's bench to three players.
If the Tigers keep Reyes, their No. 17 prospect per MLB Pipeline, he's going to have to play.
"The kid's playing really well, pretty much every day, no matter where I put him," Gardenhire said. "I put him out in all the different fields, and he's running the balls down out there. You see him swing, and he's staying on the ball [with a] nice short swing and beating it around.
"I think he's comfortable here. I think he feels comfortable, and that was the goal, to get him comfortable and see what he can do."
As for the idea of stashing Reyes on the bench, Gardenhire said: "We're not going to stash him anywhere. He's going to get playing time. I play everybody. I know that I can put him in any spot in the outfield. There'll be days when you can DH [Nicholas] Castellanos and put [Reyes] in right, and days when you give [Leonys] Martin a day off in center. We have multiple outfielders that we can play around with, if they all stay on the club."
On the bullpen scenario, Gardenhire said: "If our starters can do what we hope they can do, they'll get into the second half of ballgames, and we could go with just 12 [pitchers]. We're talking about it. It's still not a finished product, but we're working on it. I'd love to go with 12 so I can keep an extra [position] player."
Easier being Greene
Shane Greene's late-season stint at closer last year included some four- and five-out save opportunities as he transitioned from his previous role as a multi-inning reliever. Now that Greene enters this season as the closer, Gardenhire would prefer to hold him to standard one-inning appearances and avoid sitting him down between innings.
"Closers have a tendency: You put them in the game, they close the game out, and they go that one inning," Gardenhire said. "I know in the playoffs people stretch them out, but some of the guys I had [in Minnesota], they didn't know what to do when you sat them down between innings. You bring them in, they get an out, then they have to sit there, and you look at them and they don't know what they're doing. They start getting fidgety. We tried that with Glen Perkins, and he had no idea what to do."
Green light for Martin
Leonys Martin had two steals, both of second base, in Tuesday's win, bringing the speedy center fielder's total to three so far this spring. Gardenhire didn't want him running early in the Grapefruit League schedule, but he has given him the green light recently, a trend that could carry into the regular season even if he bats leadoff.
That particular spot has been tricky for speedy players for years with the prospect of either running into an out with Miguel Cabrera looming, or opening first base for a pitcher to walk Cabrera.
"When Miggy's up at the plate, I don't want guys getting thrown out trying to steal bases," Gardenhire said. "Let's get the base if we can get the base, but I want them to be smart about it. Some of those guys, I don't want them making silly outs trying to do too much with those guys up. But I still want to be aggressive. I don't want people to say we're predictable. If they give it, you take it."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.