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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tigers make final cuts, send down Worth, Dirks, Wilks keep Boesch, Wells

The Tigers made their final three cuts Saturday morning to get down to the 25-man roster for the regular season.

To get there, the Tigers optioned reserve infielder Danny Worth to Toledo, and assigned two of this spring's biggest surprises, outfielder Andy Dirks and lefty pitcher Adam Wilk, to the minor league camp. All three had impressive springs, making Leyland's decision that much harder.

"You are breaking hearts. We've broken a couple and we'll break a couple more," said Leyland about having to make the final roster moves, which were the most scrutinized of the spring.

Barring any last-minute moves, the moves mean that Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells will both make the team as reserve outfielders, and Ramon Santiago will be the extra infielder. Utility man Don Kelly can play both infield and outfield, as well.

The final two bullpen slots went to 23-year-old Venezuelan right-hander Brayan Villareal, who ranked second-best in the Tigers' minor league system with 136 strikeouts between single and double-A a year ago, and veteran right-hander Enrique Gonzalez, a non-roster invitee who split time between Toledo and Detroit a year ago.

A little over two weeks ago, Leyland had praised his corps of young lefty relievers — including Wilk, last year's minor league pitcher of the year in the organization, rookie Charlie Furbush, veteran Fu-Te Ni and youngsters Daniel Schlereth and Duane Below — saying that it was conceivable that all of them could stick with the parent club. In the final evaluation, however, it will only be Schlereth who heads north with the Tigers. He and veteran Brad Thomas will be the bullpen's two southpaws to start the season.

The Tigers' minor league player of the year last season, Dirks hit .333 with four doubles, three triples and a homer this spring, further complicating what was already a logjam of outfielders competing for just one or two slots. But his spring couldn't match what Boesch and Wells had done in the regular season for the Tigers a year ago. The Tigers' second-best defensive outfielder, Wells can play all three outfield positions, while both he and Boesch can provide pinch-hit pop off the bench.

A career .251 hitter in the minors in the four seasons since the Tigers selected him in the second round of the 2007 draft, Worth's bat finally caught up to his glove this spring, as he too hit .333, with six doubles. Leyland has said that he's a major league-ready defender, but Santiago is a veteran of nine major league seasons, seven of them with the Tigers.

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