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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, September 27, 2011

Injuries may start to force decisions for Tigers' playoff roster

For the whole homestand, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said nearly every day: "I'm going to try to get Wilson Betemit in tomorrow."

And every tomorrow, he's been missing from the lineup, with his sore left knee still ailing. Monday, Leyland finally admitted that his plan to get Betemit a few tuneup games before the playoffs had hit a hitch.

"He's not right. That's not good, no," Leyland admitted. "I'm worried about Betemit. I'll just leave it at that."

UPDATED: Wilson Betemit was in the Tigers' lineup for Tuesday's game. Presumably, if he plays Tuesday and Wednesday, that would be enough of a warm-up for the playoffs. We'll see how he feels afterward.

Leyland also admitted that his other ailing veteran infielder, Carlos Guillen, who has a grade-1 (least severe) calf strain, probably won't be ready for the start of the American League Divisional Series on Friday. That's probably less surprising, since Leyland had been preaching patience over the weekend, saying those kind of injuries require time and little else to heal.

"Let me put it this way: It's very unlikely he'll be ready for the first round. I do not think he'll be ready," Leyland said. "Now, that's not to say that he couldn't be added later."

While Guillen was thought to be one of the guys on the bubble for one of the last two position player spots, Betemit was probably considered a no-brainer a week or so ago. If he's unavailable, that opens up another spot for one of the shrinking list of bubble guys.

And if the Tigers don't need to carry backup catcher Omir Santos as insurance against Victor Martinez being unable to catch — "Victor could catch tonight, if I wanted him to," Leyland said over the weekend — then probably all three of the remaining bubble guys may make it.

If Betemit can't go, utilityman Don Kelly would probably move into the left-handed portion of the platoon with Brandon Inge that Betemit had previously occupied. That would probably necessitate carrying an extra outfielder, like Andy Dirks.

And it probably also means that reserve infielders Danny Worth and Will Rhymes are probably going to be carried, too. Those two don't really limit the Tigers' versatility too much, as Kelly can still be switched to any other position (except shortstop), and Ryan Raburn can play both on the infield and in the outfield.

The bullpen questions are starting to clear up a little bit, too. Al Alburquerque came through his planned workload (an inning, a day off, then back-to-back outings) just fine, so it's assumed he'll be in the postseason 'pen.

More than likely, that leaves the Tigers selecting two of the following three: RHP Ryan Perry, RHP David Pauley, LHP Duane Below.

Leyland said no firm decisions were made in Monday's organizational meeting, but the deadline to turn in the postseason rosters hasn't been set yet, due to the uncertainty of the Wild Cards in both leagues.

The skipper did indicate that, all things being equal (i.e. if a decision was a 50/50 coin flip), then previous playoff experience might play into it.

"But remember, I always talk about talent, not experience," Leyland finished.


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