DETROIT -- The Tigers’ Opening Day roster includes several players making their debut for Detroit and two prospects making their Major League debut, as well as two pitchers returning to club after being sent to the Minors earlier this spring.
While the position roster was boosted with upgrades via free agency (Javier Báez), trades (Austin Meadows, Tucker Barnhart) and the farm system (Spencer Torkelson), injuries have hampered the depth in the bullpen over the last couple weeks. Three relievers -- Andrew Chafin, Kyle Funkhouser and José Cisnero -- will open the season on the injured list, thinning out a relief corps that had been a bright spot by the end of last season.
Teams are able to carry 28 players (29 for doubleheaders), up from 26, from Opening Day through May 1. Additionally, there will be no limit on how many pitchers clubs can carry as part of the expanded 28-man rosters. However, rosters will revert to 26 players with a 13-pitcher maximum on May 2.
The Tigers haven’t formally announced that their roster is set, allowing the possibility of a last-minute move. For now, here’s a look at Detroit’s 28-man roster going into Friday’s season opener against the White Sox at Comerica Park:
Catchers (3): Tucker Barnhart, Eric Haase, Dustin Garneau
Manager A.J. Hinch has been consistent about preferring three catchers all spring. Haase could be poised to get more playing time in left field with Riley Greene on the injured list, depending on how much Hinch wants to play matchups against left-handed pitching. Meadows batted just .198 against lefties last year, and he is .237 vs. southpaws for his career.
First base (2): Spencer Torkelson, Miguel Cabrera
Torkelson, ranked as baseball's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, earned a roster spot and starting job on the strength of a very good Spring Training that included a mature, disciplined plate approach. He hit more doubles (four) than home runs (one), but more importantly, he very rarely looked overmatched, even against good veteran pitchers (other than Kevin Gausman). Cabrera will get an occasional start at first base, but this is Torkelson’s position, now and potentially for the next several years.
Second base (1): Jonathan Schoop
Torkelson’s arrival moves Schoop off of first and back to his traditional position. While he could bat a tick lower in the batting order with the arrival of Báez, his everyday role is secure.
Shortstop (1): Javier Báez
El Mago has the potential to be a game-changer for Detroit, not just with his defense at short, but also his aggressiveness and instincts on the bases.
Third base (1): Jeimer Candelario
This is a potentially key season for Candelario, who is eligible for free agency after the 2023 season. While Meadows’ arrival likely moves Candelario down the batting order, the switch-hitter and reigning American League doubles leader remains a vital run producer heading into the season.
Outfield (4): Akil Baddoo, Robbie Grossman, Austin Meadows, Victor Reyes
There are two left-handed hitters and two switch-hitters in this group, providing valuable balance for what had been a righty-heavy lineup at times last season. While Meadows takes over in left field, Baddoo and Reyes will likely share time in center in a righty-lefty mix, though Reyes could also start for Meadows on occasion.
Starting pitchers (5): Eduardo Rodriguez, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Tyler Alexander
Michael Pineda will join this group in a week or so once he has stretched out his innings at Triple-A Toledo. That move will bump Alexander back to his versatile relief role. For now, Detroit’s rotation features three left-handers and some very different pitching styles all around.
Relief pitchers (10): Gregory Soto, Michael Fulmer, Alex Lange, Joe Jiménez, Jason Foley, Rony García, Drew Hutchison, Will Vest, Jacob Barnes, Elvin Rodriguez
Putting together a 10-man bullpen was always going to be difficult. Doing so amidst three injuries to established relievers is a challenge that sometimes comes down to healthy arms and roster status. Fortunately, help is on the way. Once Pineda is ready to start, Alexander will supplant one of these pitchers in relief. Wily Peralta will begin pitching in games at Single-A Lakeland, and he could be ready in the next week or two. Chafin and Funkhouser will likely return from the injured list by the end of April, replacing two more names above.
Then, two more relievers will exit when rosters return to 26 players on May 2. In other words, half of this group could change within a month. For now, though, depth is seriously taxed.
Chase Anderson did not make the roster, having given up nine hits over five innings with a walk and two strikeouts. Anderson had the ability to opt out in his Minor League contract, but he will accept an assignment to Toledo.