Tigers postseason roster starting to take shape
Here's my rather informal look at who to expect on the postseason roster:
POSITION PLAYERS: 14
WRITTEN IN INK: These are the no-brainers, the guys who are guaranteed spots on the roster, and probably on the field every day, too. (6)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Alex Avila, C
Victor Martinez, DH/C
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Austin Jackson, CF
Delmon Young, LF
Don't really need to say much about any of these guys, do I?
PENCIL THEM IN: These are the guys who are pretty good bets to make it, based on experience, versatility or both. (6)
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Don Kelly, 3B/1B/LF/RF/C/RHP
Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS
Wilson Betemit, 3B/2B
Brandon Inge, 3B/C
Ryan Raburn, 2B/OF
Magglio's about the only guy here who couldn't play another position in a pinch (discounting, of course, DH). Kelly's almost certainly in because he can be a defensive replacement all over the field. Santiago's played his way not only into near-certainty status for the playoff roster, but probably into a spot where he'll get some starts, too. I'm willing to bet the Tigers carry both Betemit and Inge, and continue to play the matchups, with Inge likely getting the nod in a defensive situation. Raburn's on his usual tear, following up a .323 average in August with a .393 average in September.
THE QUESTION MARKS: These guys are — more than likely — competing for the final two spots. (Pick 2)
Andy Dirks, OF
Carlos Guillen, 2B/1B
Omir Santos, C
Danny Worth, INF
Will Rhymes, 2B
OK, here's where the decision-making comes in. These guys offer some versatility, or at least some security, but not much else. If Martinez can't catch in the postseason (and he's unlikely to test it before the end of the regular season), then Santos' chances increase quite a bit. If Guillen can't come back from his most recent injury (a strained calf) before next Friday, it may make this decision that much easier, too. I'm sure the Tigers would like to have his bat available as a pinch hitter, but ...
That leaves Dirks, who is hitting just .179 since his return from Toledo with the September call-ups, and a couple of backup infielders in Worth and Rhymes, one right-handed stick, and one lefty. All three are potential pinch runners, especially on this team, which is pedestrian at best on the basepaths.
My bet? Dirks and Santos (unless Guillen makes a quick recovery).
WRITTEN IN INK: These are the four playoff starters, plus the locks for the bullpen. (7)
Justin Verlander, RHP
Doug Fister, RHP
Max Scherzer, RHP
Rick Porcello, RHP
Jose Valverde, RHP, Closer
Joaquin Benoit, RHP
Phil Coke, LHP
No matter what, Verlander will start Games 1 and 5. Period. The Game 2/3 starters will probably depend on opponent and venue. If the Tigers have home field, I'd look for Scherzer to get the start at Comerica, with Fister going to the mound in a place like Fenway, where grounders are golden. Porcello has almost certainly outperformed Brad Penny for that last spot in the postseason rotation — but I've been surprised before. Valverde's been steady all year long, and Benoit and Coke have been the ringleaders of the bullpen's second-half resurgence.
PENCIL THEM IN: These are the guys who are pretty good bets to make it. (2)
Daniel Schlereth, LHP
Al Alburquerque, RHP
You could almost say — given the righty-heavy starting rotation and back end — that Schlereth may be a shoo-in, too. And I probably can't argue with that, considering he's been a lot better since a midseason stint in Toledo. If he's healthy, Alburquerque is probably a safe bet, too. He was supposed to throw in Tuesday's game, just to make sure all his forearm and hip strain are behind him.
QUESTION MARKS: Basically six guys in the running for two spots (Pick 2).
Ryan Perry, RHP
David Pauley, RHP
Brad Penny, RHP
Luis Marte, RHP
Duane Below, LHP
Jacob Turner, RHP
Leyland said that Turner was "done" after getting a start on Thursday — Fister will follow Scherzer in relief Wednesday to allow them to line up for the postseason — so you can probably rule him out of this discussion. It could be a ruse, I suppose, but the Tigers have been getting ready to shut him down for a while.
That leaves four righties and a lefty. You don't need long-reliever types in the postseason, usually, so that may rule out Pauley, but Below might get a reprieve, since he's left-handed.
You really never know what you're going to get with Ryan Perry, but he's been better since his second stint at Toledo this summer. Marte was brought up for his strikeout-inducing curveball, but hasn't entirely replicated his minor-league numbers, and probably is a long shot to be on the postseason roster, considering his inexperience.
That leaves Penny.
The likely odd-man-out in the rotation squeeze, you have to wonder if the Tigers would carry the 33-year-old to pitch out of the bullpen, especially considering that his 23.0 career postseason innings pitched isn't that much less than all the rest of the Tigers pitchers combined (32.2). Those not named Verlander only have 11 combined postseason innings. Saying that Penny's been rough in his last five outings (6.86 ERA) is being kind, but he has given the Tigers a chance to win at least two of those. His postseason resume isn't pretty when you look at the starting numbers — four starts, 1-2 record, 13 ER in 18.1 IP — but he had three scoreless relief appearances for the Marlins in 2003, and two earned runs in an inning of relief in the 2006 NLDS for the Dodgers. Oh, yeah, and he has a World Series ring, after beating the Yankees twice in the 2003 Series. He may not have endeared himself to Tigers fans, but he's been the steady veteran presence that the Tigers wanted him to be when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offeseason.
My prediction: Perry and Below.