LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers whittled down their roster closer to the Opening Day set of 25 on Wednesday, sending out seven players, including left-hander Blaine Hardy, right-hander Angel Nesbitt, infielder Omar Infante and outfielder Alex Presley.
Hardy was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Nesbitt, Infante, Presley, first baseman Efren Navarro, catcher Miguel Gonzalez and infielder Brendan Ryan were all assigned to Minor League camp. The moves drop Detroit's camp roster to 29 players with four days before the Opening Day roster must be set. One of those players is J.D. Martinez, who will open the season on the disabled list, so the Tigers have just three cuts left.
While most of those players are expected to end up in Toledo, Infante has an opt-out next week and can request his release if he's not on the Opening Day roster. He'll search the market for a Major League opportunity elsewhere, but could accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo if there's nothing better.
Though Hardy pitched well in camp, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits over 11 1/3 innings with two walks and 14 strikeouts, the Tigers' plan to carry two left-handers in their seven-man bullpen to begin the season pretty much ruled him out. One lefty, Justin Wilson, is the primary setup man, while Kyle Ryan has proven to be a versatile asset as his complement.
"It boiled down to Hardy or Ryan," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and they both pitched pretty well during camp. I think it came down to more how they performed last season. Overall Kyle was a little more consistent."
If there's a comparably tough call, it's Presley, who went 14-for-31 with six doubles, two homers, four walks and just four strikeouts this spring. But the likely platoon of Tyler Collins and Michael Mahtook seemed to make sense from the start, Steven Moya is out of Minor League options, and JaCoby Jones' emergence as a viable option in center fielder sooner rather than later didn't help Presley's cause.
"Presley played as well as anybody in camp, quite frankly," Ausmus said. "There's a lot of other things at play, unfortunately, but like we told him, at any moment it could change."
Infante was always a long shot on a Tigers roster trying to trend younger, but the 35-year-old looked and played like somebody in his 20s. Looking healthier than he has in years, Infante went 13-for-37 with five doubles and moved deftly in the field. His play across the infield had some Tigers officials pondering whether to give him a look as an outfielder, a move they declined in the end.
"He showed he's still got life in his body, he can still play baseball at a Major League level," Ausmus said.
Nesbitt gave up four runs on eight hits over 7 2/3 innings, but the 26-year-old reclaimed his status as a Tigers relief prospect, and put himself in line for a potential early-season callup if help is needed in Detroit. His fastball reached 98 mph several times on his way to 10 strikeouts.
"He came into camp in good shape, pitched well, had one rough outing," Ausmus said.