There’s no way to analyze the Mud Hens’ potential roster for 2012 without looking at the Tigers’ roster for the coming season. So here’s a look at who might begin next season in Detroit and in Toledo …
PLAYERS LOST, DETROIT: RHP Joel Zumaya (injured, did not pitch); LHP Brad Thomas, 0-1, 9.00 ERA.
PLAYERS LOST, TOLEDO: RHP Enrique Gonzalez, 4-6, 16 saves, 5.48 ERA; LHP David Purcey, 0-0, 2.38 ERA; RHP Brendan Wise, 5-2, 2 saves, 1.90 ERA;
IN DETROIT FOR SURE: The Tigers picked up the option of RHP Jose Valverde for next season after the team’s closer was a perfect 49-for-49 in save situations. If Valverde can come close to repeating those numbers, he’ll be worth it. … RHP Joaquin Benoit finished with two saves, 29 holds and a 2.95 ERA. A lot of eyebrows were raised when Detroit signed him in the off season last year, but he proved to be worth the money. … LHP Phil Coke struggled as a starter (1-7, 4.82 ERA) and never fully returned to the success he had in 2010. The Tigers expect that, with his focus strictly on relieving, Coke will be a left-handed force out of the bullpen next season.
IN DETROIT OR IN TOLEDO? RHP Al Alburquerque was a force in the bullpen – when he was healthy. His 1.87 ERA, 6-1 record and 67 strikeouts (along with just 21 hits allowed) in 43.1 innings were all impressive. But he needs to throw more strikes (29 walks) and stay healthy to earn a job in Detroit. … Who is the real David Pauley? Is it the guy who had a 2.15 ERA in 39 appearances in Seattle, or the guy who was 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA in 14 appearances in Detroit? The Tigers hope next year it will be the former. … RHP Ryan Perry again bounced between Detroit and Toledo, and there will be pressure for the former first-round draft pick to start figuring things out at the major league level. Last year he was 2-0 with a 5.35 ERA with the Tigers. … LHP Daniel Schlereth did better than Perry, but the clock is ticking on him as well. Schlereth, who was 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA in Detroit, and Perry both have too much talent to struggle this much.
OTHER TOLEDO OPTIONS: LHP Matt Hoffman wasn’t expected to spent this season in Toledo, but he made the most of the opportunity, finishing with a 3.18 ERA in 49 appearances with the Hens. Curiously, lefties hit .306 against him but right-handers had just a .224 average. … LHP Fu-Te Ni thrived when he was thrust into the Toledo rotation, posting a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts. He may return to the bullpen in 2012, though, and he’ll have to do a better job against lefties, who hit .260 against him. … LHP Jose Ortega throws hard, often hitting the mid-90s with his fastball. But he didn’t command the heat, allowing 27 walks in 50 innings with the Mud Hens. … Early in the season RHP Robbie Weinhardt received a promotion to Detroit. But he returned to Toledo and struggled with the Hens, posting a 6.49 ERA that got him sent to Double-A Erie. He’ll need to reestablish his sinker to get another chance in the big leagues.
POTENTIAL HELP FROM ERIE: LHP Casey Crosby was 9-7 with a 4.10 ERA in 25 starts for the SeaWolves but seems destined to move to the bullpen. … RHP Luis Marte was 3-0 with three saves and a 1.70 ERA (not to mention 68 strikeouts in 53 innings). He’ll get a chance to earn a spot in the Tigers’ bullpen but probably will start the season in Toledo. … LHP Austin Wood is a lefty who knows how to pitch, having posting a 3.16 ERA in 50 appearances for the SeaWolves.
THE LAST WORD: In Detroit, the main roles are filled by Valverde, Benoit and Coke. But don’t be surprised if the Tigers sign another arm for the bullpen – and offer a minor-league contract to Zumaya, with the hope that his arm injuries are behind him. The rest of the bullpen will be comprised of those pitchers who perform best in spring training. … In Toledo there will probably being a lot of talented, hard-throwing arms in the bullpen. But those arms also will likely be young – and probably wild. Look for some pitchers with a history of starting get moved to the bullpen, with the potential movers including Duane Below, Crosby, Brayan Villarreal and Adam Wilk. … In Erie there are some relievers who may have earned a promotion to Toledo but don’t get one. Look for Ortega and Marte to pitch for the Hens, with other Erie relievers such as Wood, RHP Jared Gayhart (5-0, 3.38 ERA), LHP Ramon Garcia (3-3, 4.57 ERA) and RHP Tyler Stohr (0-2, 4.21 ERA) potential Hens in 2012.
FRIDAY, NOV. 11: A look at the outfielders in Detroit, Toledo and Erie. Click here to read Monday's look at the starting pitching situation. Click here to read Wednesday's look at the catching situation. Click here to read Thursday's look at the infield situation. Click here to read Friday's look at the outfield situation.