LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire has had his share of success stories with Rule 5 Draft picks.
"We kept a guy like, what's his name? Johan Santana," said the Tigers manager, referring to the left-handed pitcher who was a Rule 5 pick with the Twins in 2000 and went on to win a pair of American League Cy Young Awards. "Who knew? He's not a big guy, not a strong guy, but he's left-handed and we kept him. And it worked out. And there have been a lot of other ones that people have kept that haven't worked out."
Neither Gardenhire nor the Tigers have any idea where lanky, speedy outfielder Victor Reyes will fall on that scale. They don't know yet if Reyes is worth keeping on the Opening Day roster, but as Gardenhire tries to figure out whom to carry on his bench, the discussion with the front office seems to be percolating.
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"We've discussed that a few different times, what he looks like in this organization, the depth that we have or don't have," Gardenhire said after Monday's 5-4 loss to the Nationals. "Will he be a guy that, if we keep him this year and go through the year with him -- where's he going to be? What's his ceiling? Do we think he's going to be really good? Those are big questions.
"Obviously, our people that drafted him feel there's something there. They've seen him a lot more than I have, other than just Spring Training. We're definitely studying that one pretty hard, let's just put it that way. I do like him."
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The Tigers used the top overall pick in the December Rule 5 Draft to pluck Reyes from the D-backs organization, bypassing some other strong candidates in the process. They had some insight on him from special assistant Mike Russell, who worked in a similar role with the D-backs for a couple of years before returning to the Tigers a year ago.
Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 17 prospect in Detroit's system, Reyes is 6-for-30 with a double, two walks and six strikeouts so far in 15 Spring Training games. Meanwhile, fellow outfield candidate JaCoby Jones has heated up, now 9-for-23 with three doubles, a homer, six RBIs and four walks, while shifting around the outfield. The former shortstop prospect is also taking ground balls in the infield in an effort to improve his case for a spot on Detroit's bench.
"Our bench is not going to be deep," Gardenhire said, "so who's on that bench probably needs to be doing a few different things. I think he's looking at that and wants to be on the ballclub."
That could leave the Tigers and Gardenhire with an interesting decision to make, especially if the skipper decides to carry an extra reliever for the opening stretch of the schedule and whittle his bench to three players. Even amid a rebuilding project, the Tigers have some focus on the present in terms of their roster. But they have to offer Reyes back to Arizona or trade him to another club if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
The latter part is where the Tigers have to do some projection.
"I like the guy, whether we can or whether we should do that [with the roster]," Gardenhire said. "We know where we're going as an organization and he fits the mold, a young player, to do some things. He's talented, and there's a reason why we picked him. Those all go into consideration.
"He's come from another organization, and our organization has put some stock in him. With the No. 1 pick like that, they've put some stock in him. I think that's the point we really have to look at and make sure we understand what we have here and where we're going. There have been good conversations, and there will be more."
Gardenhire had a lengthy discussion between innings with home-plate umpire Jerry Layne after catcher John Hicks and pitcher Ryan Carpenter had their signs mixed up. Gardenhire was trying to clarify what qualifies as a mound visit and what will still be allowed after the six-visit limit in a game has been reached.
"Our catcher got crossed up twice," Gardenhire said. "We're looking at protocol here. What should he have done? Jerry understood that they were crossed up. If [Hicks] said, 'Hey, I'm crossed up. I've got to go talk to him again,' then Jerry follows him out [toward the mound] and they talk about signs and then we walk back in, no trip."
Right-handed reliever Enrique Burgos might be out for a while after straining his right groin in Monday's appearance.
"It's not going to be one of those day-by-day things," Gardenhire said. "I think it's going to be a week-plus, because he definitely pulled it. We'll know more tomorrow, see how sore he is, but it's a definite pull."
Burgos said the Tigers are waiting on tests to determine the extent of the injury, which came on an eighth-inning pitch and forced him out of the game. Right-hander Zac Reininger, who was in big league camp earlier this spring but was back as an extra pitcher on Monday, finished the inning.
Blaine Hardy hopes to make his first game appearance next Monday as he works his way back from inflammation in his left shoulder. The reliever is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday before facing hitters in batting practice later this week.
Jordan Zimmermann will continue his quest to seal up a rotation spot on Tuesday when the Tigers visit the Yankees in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at George M. Steinbrenner Field that will air on MLB.TV. Zimmermann has yielded six runs on 10 hits over eight innings in three starts this spring. A fair number of Tigers regulars could join him on the trip to Tampa, Fla., ahead of Wednesday's scheduled off-day.