Tigers moves: Lorenzen, Nevin to start season on IL; Vest, Ibanez cut

Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – You’d think with just three games left on the Grapefruit League schedule there’d be more clarity about the Tigers’ Opening Day roster.

Not so much, not even after three more players were sent out of camp on Friday.

“All configurations are still up for debate and conversation,” manager AJ Hinch said after announcing that reliever Will Vest and catcher Donny Sands were optioned to Triple-A Toledo and infielder Andy Ibanez was reassigned to minor league camp.

“I know it feels like we have three games left and the deadline is Sunday but it is not. We’re going to go into the off days still debating all configurations.”

The rosters have to be submitted to the league by noon Thursday.

A couple of roster issues were cleared up, not involving cuts.

Hinch said that right-handed starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who is fighting through a left groin strain, would not be ready to start the season on time. Lefty Joey Wentz will replace him in the rotation.

“We’re still encouraged about where (Lorenzen) is at,” Hinch said. “But we did let Wentz know he was going to start one of the first five games of the season. But Michael is trending great. The pitching side of him could be fast-forwarded relatively quick.

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“But it’s the other uncontrollables that you worry about. Breaking off the mound, covering first base, the random position your body gets into when a comebacker is coming. Those are the things we have to be very cautious about.”

The hope is Lorenzen’s stay on the injured list would be the minimum of 15 days, the start of which can be backtracked three days.

It’s expected that infielder Tyler Nevin, who has been out with an oblique soreness, will also start the season on the injured list.

“Tyler is kind of getting back into baseball activity but it’s unlikely he’s going to have done enough to be active on Opening Day,” Hinch said. “He’s still behind when it comes to getting himself back to full-go, baseball-wise.”

Hinch also informed catchers Andrew Knapp and Michael Papierski that they did not make the club, though they would be staying in camp until the start of the regular season. That means that Eric Haase and Jake Rogers will be the catching tandem to start the season.

“I wanted to clear up any doubt of where we’re going to be on the catcher side,” said Hinch, who had kicked around the idea of keeping three catchers on the roster.

Sands, who came to the Tigers with Matt Vierling and Nick Maton from the Phillies in the Gregory Soto trade, struggled early with the bat and never seemed to get caught up.

“Donny can help us,” Hinch said. “He can do a lot of things well. He also has a lot of things to work on to make himself a more complete player on both sides of the ball. He came as advertised, though. There is an edge to him, a competitiveness to him.

“He didn’t exactly do all his best in this camp, but it’s a small sample. He’ll go work on the rest of his game in Toledo.”

The toughest conversation Hinch had Friday was with Vest, who struggled to regain his mechanics this spring.

“That was a tough one because he pitched well for us for a lot of last season,” he said. “He struggled to execute this spring (13 runs, 13 hits in four innings). It could be quick (the demotion). It could be competitive. But we felt like telling him right away when we made the decision was important.

“It was a tough conversation because I love Will and I think he did a lot for us last season. But as I told him in the meeting, we have to consider the group we feel is throwing the best going into the first weekend.”

The bullpen battle, though, is no closer to being cleared up. There are presumably four spots open and that is assuming Alex Lange, Jose Cisnero, Jason Foley and Tyler Alexander are locked in.

Rule 5 rookie right-hander Mason Englert, who has pitched well this spring, seems to have a firm grip on one of those open spots. That would leave seven pitchers vying for three spots: right-handers Beau Brieske, Garrett Hill, Trey Wingenter (non-roster) and Matt Wisler (non-roster), plus lefties Chasen Shreve (non-roster), Tyler Holton and Jace Fry (non-roster).

The position player battle is just as murky, even with Ibanez and Nevin temporarily out of the mix.

“Andy missed a lot of time,” Hinch said. “And not just because of the WBC (Team Cuba). But because of the (finger) injury. We’ve got to get his swing back in a good setup. He needs to go play and the reps here are going to be short, maybe the eighth inning, maybe the eighth and ninth, one at-bat.”

Presuming designated hitter Miguel Cabrera, first baseman Spencer Torkelson, shortstop Javier Báez, infielders Jonathan Schoop and Nick Maton, outfielders Riley Greene, Austin Meadows and Matt Vierling, plus the two catchers are locks, there are three spots open and six players still in camp competing.

Those six are outfielders Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter and Jonathan Davis (non-roster), plus infielders Cesar Hernandez (non-roster), Ryan Kreidler and Zack Short.

As Hinch said, all configurations are on the table. He could keep two extra outfielders, even though Baddoo and Carpenter are both left-handed hitters, and just one infield utility player. He could keep extra infielders because both Kreidler and Short, right-handed hitters, have taken a lot of reps in the outfield and have played well.

Thirty-eight players remain in camp. The puzzle is far from completed.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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