Tigers’ Scott Harris explains roster decisions, including Baddoo’s demotion

Detroit News

St. Petersburg, Fla. − Tigers president Scott Harris and manager AJ Hinch sat side by side in the Tigers’ dugout at Tropicana Field on Wednesday afternoon.

As Hinch was putting the team through a final workout ahead of the season-opener Thursday against the Rays, Harris was busy making a few last-minute roster alterations and one minor-league addition.

“I like it when you are in here with me,” Hinch joked to Harris. “I don’t have to talk as much.”

One of the club’s toughest roster battles was between outfielders Kerry Carpenter and Akil Baddoo. Both are left-handed hitters, which meant that with left-handed hitting Riley Greene and Austin Meadows likely to be regulars in Hinch’s lineup, there wouldn’t be room for four lefty-hitting, outfield-only players.

Baddoo, despite a strong spring, was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday.

“Akil might not be on the Opening Day roster,” Harris said, “but he is very much a part of the team. We’re going to need him this summer. But at this point, he got beat out by four other outfielders (including right-handed hitting Matt Vierling) who earned their spots on the roster.

“It’s not a commentary on Akil. It’s a commentary on how deep our outfield feels right now. Both with the outfielders we have in the big leagues and with the infielders who can go out and play in the outfield.”

More: Tigers 2023 season preview: Miguel Cabrera’s final ride, and hope for a turnaround

Utility players Ryan Kreidler, Nick Maton and newly-acquired Zach McKinstry can all play in the outfield.

“And with Akil and a prospect like Parker Meadows, who eventually might be part of the picture, we feel a little bit deeper in the outfield,” Harris said. “And that gave us the opportunity to make a really tough decision in optioning Akil.

“But those are the decisions you want in the end; you want the tough decisions.”

Instead of four left-handed hitting outfield-only players, the Tigers kept a right-handed and a left-handed hitting super utility players in Kreidler (righty) and McKinstry, the Central Michigan University-product the Tigers acquired Monday in a trade with the Cubs for minor-league pitcher Carlos Guzman. Both can play third, short and second on the infield as well as both corner outfield spots. Kreidler has also filled in creditably in center field.

“Adding versatile players who can play virtually everywhere gives this guy (Hinch) more options to build better lineups and to finding advantages in games,” Harris said.

More: Meet the 2023 Detroit Tigers

When asked about Kreidler, Harris said that first and foremost, he earned the roster spot.

“I’m excited to see him get to work,” Harris said. “We think he has a chance to take the next step and we’re going to build a system around him to help him do that.”

It also boosted Kreidler’s case that the Tigers are expected to face four left-handed starting pitchers in the first seven games, including Thursday against Rays ace lefty Shane McClanahan.

The news

∎The bullpen, at least for the first two series, is set. Hinch informed four players they had made the team: Rule 5 rookie Mason Englert, Trey Wingenter, Garrett Hill and lefty veteran Chasen Shreve. They join holdovers from last season Alex Lange, Jose Cisnero, Jason Foley and lefty Tyler Alexander.

Wingenter hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019 while Hill and Englert have made an Opening day big-league roster for the first time in their careers.

“We met as a team before the workout,” Hinch said. “And we celebrated. Seven players have made an Opening Day roster for the first time.”

Besides Englert and Hill, starting pitcher Joey Wentz, outfielders Greene and Carpenter and infielders Maton and Kreidler are also on their first Opening Day roster.

“It’s a cool experience and it needs to be celebrated,” Hinch said. “Then I reminded them that they are 19 years behind Miggy (Cabrera).”

∎ The two relievers who ended up being the final cut were lefty Tyler Holton, who took part in the workout but will likely be optioned to Triple-A Toledo before the game Thursday, and right-hander Beau Brieske, who is expected to start the season on the injured list.

The Tigers’ medical report said Brieske reported right upper arm discomfort after completing his last spring outing. He was still being evaluated, so no further details were known.

With non-roster players Shreve and Wingenter making the squad, the Tigers need to clear two spots on the 40-man roster. They cleared one by designating right-handed pitcher Rony Garcia for assignment. He cleared waivers and was assigned to Toledo.

There is one roster move still pending. The Tigers could be waiting to get more medical information on Brieske. They have until noon to submit the roster to the league.

∎ The order of the Tigers’ starting rotation is also set. Eduardo Rodriguez will start the opener on Thursday, then Spencer Turnbull and Wentz will work the games Saturday and Sunday. Matthew Boyd will open the series in Houston on Monday, with Matt Manning pitching Tuesday and Rodriguez on Wednesday.

That lines it up for Turnbull to pitch the home opener against the Red Sox in Detroit next Thursday.

∎ Harris also swung a minor-league trade with the Rays, acquiring 26-year-old outfielder Grant Witherspoon for cash. Witherspoon, a left-handed hitter, hit 17 homers and knocked in 61 runs with an OPS of .809 between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

On Deck: Tigers at Rays

Series: Three games at Tropicana Field

First pitch: Thursday – 3:10 p.m.; Saturday – 4:10 p.m.; Sunday – 1:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Thursday-Saturday-Sunday, BSD/97.1.

Probables: Thursday – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez vs. LHP Shane McClanahan; Saturday – RHP Spencer Turnbull vs. RHP Zach Eflin; Sunday – LHP Joey Wentz vs. TBA

Rodriguez: Coming off a broken season last year, he’s been a man on a mission this spring. He was brilliant in his five spring starts and started in one of Team Venezuela’s wins in the WBC. His command, especially with his four-seam fastball, sinker and cutter, has been as precise this spring as it was at any point last season.

McClanahan: He made his big-league debut in the playoffs in 2020. He was the American League’s starter in the All-Star game last year. This will be his second Opening Day start. And he’s not even 26 yet. In 53 career starts, he’s 22-14 with a 2.99 ERA and 335 strikeouts in 289.2 innings. He got hitters to chase on 32% of their swings last season, and got them to whiff on  34% of them. Nasty.

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