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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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Starting to settle some positions — 2B, OF, bullpen

The Tigers cut five more players — including the heir apparent at second base, Scott Sizemore — from the major league camp on Tuesday, clearing a bit of room out of a few of the logjams at the positions of competition.

The Tigers optioned Sizemore, reliever Robbie Weinhardt and outfielder Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo, and sent reliever Fu-Te Ni and catcher Max St. Pierre to minor league camp.

With Sizemore's demotion, the second base job belongs to Will Rhymes now, a fact manager Jim Leyland confirmed Tuesday. But even the light-hitting Danny Worth (.323) outhit Sizemore (.243) this spring, leaving last year's Opening Day starter at second base on the outside looking in. A shortstop by trade, Worth's biggest drawback to date has been his ineffectiveness with the stick but, as that has come on this spring, he's gotten more and more praise from Leyland. If he makes the trip north as the reserve infielder in place of Ramon Santiago — who's been mentioned in trade rumors — it won't be much of a surprise.

Thomas, who missed most of the 2010 season with a knee injury, was the odd man out in the battle for the fourth outfielder spot, a competition that's now down to just three. Brennan Boesch, last year's rookie sensation, Casper Wells, who Leyland has called the Tigers' second-best defensive outfielder, and Andy Dirks, the surprise of this year's spring training, are battling it out for the last spot behind the starters, Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez and Ryan Raburn. Utility man Don Kelly, who can also play the outfield, has already been given a roster spot.

Weinhardt had two moderately successful stints with the big club last season, and was a favorite for one of the four or five bullpen spots behind fixtures: Jose Valverde in the closer's role, and free-agent acquisition Joaquin Benoit in the set-up role. It depends whether the Tigers carry 11 or 12 pitchers on the roster to start the season, but Ryan Perry and lefties Brad Thomas and Daniel Schlereth seem the most likely to be given spots. That may leave the last one or two spots down to a competition between young lefty Adam Wilk and right-handers Brayan Villareal and Enrique Gonzalez.

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