ALDS roster hinges on Davis' health
Tigers may wait until deadline as outfielder recovers from sprained ligament in midsection
DETROIT -- The fastest baseball player in town is holding up the Tigers' postseason roster.
As important as Rajai Davis is to their postseason hopes, they're waiting -- possibly up until Thursday's 10 a.m. ET deadline for submitting a 25-man roster -- to see whether he'll be healthy enough to take part in their American League Division Series against the Orioles. Game 1 is set for Thursday night at 5:37 p.m. ET on TBS.
"Rajai Davis factors into how the postseason roster sets up," manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday afternoon. "At this point, Raj said he feels better, but we're still unsure how he's going to feel come Thursday. So until we know what Raj Davis' status is for the postseason, our postseason roster -- including the bullpen -- will not be set. So that's going to be at least 24 hours away."
Ausmus spoke shortly before the Tigers worked out on the field at Comerica Park, a session which included outfield drills. Davis was not seen on the field.
"He's only been getting treatment," Ausmus said. "I can tell you, [Monday] I saw him, he said it felt better, but I could tell by his voice that it didn't feel nearly as much better as he thought it would. Today he seemed a lot more optimistic when I talked to him. We're just going to have to wait and see."
Davis hasn't done any baseball activity since Saturday, when he left that night's game against the Twins after two innings with a sprained pubic symphysis ligament in his midsection. He's walking around without trouble, and he was seen taking part in Detroit's division title celebration after Sunday's win. For a player whose game is based so much around foot speed, however, acceleration is Davis' big test.
Here's how Davis' status affects the makeup of the entire roster:
While Davis' offensive contributions make him a full-time player when healthy, his likely fill-in at center field, Ezequiel Carrera, is not nearly the same hitter.
"Really, if you have Raj, really the thought process is you probably don't need to pinch hit as much," Ausmus said, "so you might not use as many bench players, whereas if you don't have Raj, you might need an extra bench player, which cuts into your bullpen."
If Don Kelly gets any time at center field, as he did with three starts there in September, the Tigers would likely need another utility player on the roster to cover them in the infield. That player could be September callup Hernan Perez, who can fill in around the infield and made last year's postseason roster as a pinch-runner.
An extra position player could drop Detroit's bullpen from eight pitchers to seven, which could be the difference in how many situational relievers the team carries. Though regular-season-starter-turned-postseason reliever Anibal Sanchez is capable of pitching multiple innings, Ausmus' comments Tuesday indicate he'll carry a long reliever in case of a rain delay, injury or extra innings.
"The weather looks good in Baltimore right now, but if you get caught in a situation where you play an 18-inning game or something, you need someone," Ausmus said. "If you had to pull Donnie Kelly off the bench to pitch in a postseason game, that probably wouldn't be too good."
The Tigers do not have to plan their bullpen makeup around left-handed-hitting slugger Chris Davis, who's suspended until at least the AL Championship Series. However, they have other left-handed hitters to worry about, notably Nick Markakis, who hit for a higher average against lefties (.280) than righties (.274) this year, but for far less power. He's 6-for-18 for his career against lefty reliever Phil Coke, but 0-for-8 against Joakim Soria.
The Tigers also have former Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who has struggled with walks in Detroit, but knows Baltimore's roster well. The O's hit two home runs in as many meetings against him during his time in Oakland earlier this season.
All of those situations could hinge in part on Davis.
"More than likely, we'll know Raj's status by the end of the workout [Wednesday]," Ausmus said.