LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers moved closer to setting their Opening Day roster on Saturday by granting Alexi Amarista his unconditional release, ending the versatile infielder's quest for a bench role in Detroit.
The move leaves 27 players in camp and nearly sets Detroit's positional roster. If the Tigers go with a four-man bench as expected, Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes and backup catcher John Hicks are in line to make the team and would join non-roster invite Niko Goodrum and outfielder JaCoby Jones.
The Tigers' pitching staff, meanwhile, has two decisions remaining. One could involve Mike Fiers going to the disabled list for his back. Fiers was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday morning, along with reliever Johnny Barbato, who is believed to be competing with Warwick Saupold for the final spot in the Tigers' bullpen.
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If Fiers opens the season on the DL, then Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris will fill out the Tigers' rotation after Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer and Francisco Liriano.
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"[Fiers] threw a bullpen. Everything was great, fantastic," manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters Saturday morning. "So now he's moving forward. He didn't feel anything, said it went good, but he needs more time. He's not ready for this. So we're going to end up having Norris probably."
If that's the case, Gardenhire said, Norris will likely make one more tuneup start in Minor League camp. The Tigers can wait until April 4, their sixth game of the season, before using a fifth starter.
The Tigers could still have another surprise in them if they make a roster move to add another player. General manager Al Avila said earlier in camp that they would be checking the waiver wire and releases from other camps to see if anyone is a fit.
"Right now we have these people in camp. If it breaks down right, these people will go with us," Gardenhire said. "But we haven't told anybody because there's waiver wires. I haven't told anybody. We're still waiting to see. You never know what's going on out there. Somebody might be in the same situation as us, having to make a move with [somebody] because he had an out."
Amarista, meanwhile, will be hoping other clubs do the same in the search for a utility infielder. The former Padres and Rockies shortstop played all over the infield with relatively solid defense this spring, and he seemed like a safe option to provide defensive stability and a late-inning glove.
The question with Amarista has always been his bat; he went 8-for-42 with two triples and five RBIs in Grapefruit League play. Goodrum, while not showing quite as much with the glove, has impressed offensively, with four home runs and four doubles as part of a .310 average this spring.
Goodrum also has played more outfield than Amarista.
"He plays everywhere, every infield spot and anywhere in the outfield," Gardenhire said. "He's done very well in all the positions we've put him in."
Gardenhire said Amarista's arm was also a question. He has been receiving treatment on his throwing shoulder in camp.
Amarista has enough Major League service time that he could request his release if he didn't make the team by a certain point in camp. He said Friday that he planned to wait until the end of camp to weigh his options if he didn't make the team, but the Tigers gave him the news ahead of time.
"We're trying to keep him," Gardenhire said. "Our goal is to try to re-sign him [to a Minor League contract] and keep him in here, because we'll probably end up needing him sometime during the season. But he has an out where he can take it and go elsewhere. But we've asked him to stay. We'd really like to have him here."