LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers continue to trim the roster as spring training winds down.
The second round of cuts on Tuesday optioned five players to Triple-A Toledo: right-handed pitchers Matt Manning, Franklin Perez and Alex Lange, infielder Zack Short and outfielder Christin Stewart. This means these players — along with the four pitchers sent down last week — are out of the running for the 26-man roster.
There are 42 players remaining in big-league camp.
Stewart, 27, has spent the last two seasons as the Opening Day left fielder, but he went 2-for-17 (.118) with zero walks and 10 strikeouts through nine games this spring. The offseason signings of Robbie Grossman and Nomar Mazara made Stewart’s path to the majors in 2021 improbable. Last year, he hit .167 with three home runs in 36 games.
“It’s an important year for him because he’s going to have to find a way to show us the reason to get him back into the big leagues,” Hinch said Tuesday. “He knows that. He was super professional about it. Obviously, performance is going to matter. Not just performance, but how you do it.”
Manning is ranked as the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and is expected to get called up for his MLB debut midway through the season. The 23-year-old pitched in three games and six innings this spring. He finished with a 1.50 ERA, one walk and five strikeouts.
It’s likely Manning and Perez will stay in Lakeland through April — rather than going to the alternate training site in Toledo — for the second round of spring training.
“Hopefully, they have spring training cameos in minor-league camp,” Hinch said. “So, that’s an option. Alt site is obviously an option. We’re a little bit concerned about building up (Manning) with no competition in 40-degree weather in Toledo, so we’re leaning toward leaving him here.”
Perez — the centerpiece of the 2017 Justin Verlander trade — is struggling with his fastball velocity (sitting upper 80s, low 90s) and command after injuries derailed his 2018 and 2019 seasons. The 23-year-old needs to refine his mechanics before the majors become a reality for him.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Hinch said about Perez’s velocity. “But I think he’s working his tail off, which is really important.”
The Tigers acquired Short at last season’s trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs in the trade involving outfielder Cameron Maybin. The 25-year-old impressed in camp, going 3-for-7 (.429) with one homer and three RBIs. Also, he is an elite defender.
If there is an injury to an infielder in the majors this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Short make his MLB debut. He can play second base, shortstop and third base and puts together solid at-bats and is speedy on the bases.
“He does a lot of things right,” Hinch said. “He’s like a throwback baseball player that doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. … He’s here for some experience. This was the first real look that we’ve gotten at him as an organization. He’s made a nice impression. We need to see him play a little bit more and give him some more opportunities to develop. There’s a lot to like.”
Lange was acquired by the Tigers in the 2019 trade with the Cubs for Nick Castellanos. His 97-mph fastball and lethal curveball made it a tough decision for Hinch to cut him, but the team’s first-year manager knows he has a reliable arm for the big-league bullpen in the near future.
It won’t be long before Lange gets his opportunity.
“He leaped a couple of guys and is an option faster than I expected coming into camp,” Hinch said. “We knew he had the back-end of the bullpen mentality and aggressiveness that comes with it, but I think he showcased himself very well. Opened some eyes.”
Second baseman Kody Clemens was reassigned Tuesday to the team’s mini-camp in Lakeland. There were seven players reassigned during last week’s cuts, including right-hander Zack Hess and catcher Dillon Dingler.