On Saturday, Sept. 1, rosters at the major league level can expand from their current 25-man limit up to 40 players. That means some of the players on the Mud Hens current roster can expect to be called up to Detroit on Saturday.
But which players? Good question. Let's explore the possibilities.
Before we start looking at particular players, let's understand one important element in this process: Any player who is called up to Detroit when rosters expand must be on the 40-man roster. During the regular-season that is a two-edged sword, at times knocking minor-league players out of action to create space to add a major-league player (perfect example: Thad Weber a short time ago).
In short, if the player is on the 40-man roster, his chances of being promoted to the Tigers is MUCH better. If he's not on the 40-man, another move must be made to create room.
Clear? OK, then let's look at some pitchers, presented in alphabetical order. On Friday I'll look at some position players on the Mud Hens roster and handicap their chances.
After each player's name I'll have a "yes" or "no" to tell you if they are on the 40-man, following be some thoughts on each player. Here we go ...
- AL ALBURQUERQUE (YES): Alburquerque is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA with the Hens, having allowed nine hits and four walks in 10.2 innings while striking out 18. In his last six appearances? Six hits and two walks in 7.2 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts. Based on his recent pitching, he WILL be called up.
- DUANE BELOW (YES): After spending most of the season with the Tigers, Below has struggled since coming to the Mud Hens. He has posted an 0-2 record and 5.73 ERA in three starts, allowing 16 hits and nine walks in 11 innings with just six strikeouts. But I'm going to go against the numbers here and say he WILL be called up ... based on his season of work with the Tigers and the struggles of Phil Coke in the bullpen. He would give Detroit a left-handed bullpen option.
- CASEY CROSBY (YES): For the season Crosby is 7-8 with a 3.77 ERA for the Mud Hens. He didn't throw particularly well on Sunday, but his two prior starts were very sharp. I could be wrong here, but I think the answer is that he will NOT be called up. Here's nearing his innings total from last season, which shows he has overcome the arm troubled that plagued him early in his career -- but still are a cautionary tale. And there isn't a need for a left-handed starter because of Drew Smyly and Adam Wilk.
- MATT HOFFMAN (YES): The 23-year-old lefty has bounced back from a rough start to move his season's numbers to 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA. In nine August appearances Hoffman has a 2.70 ERA with nine hits and three walks in 10 innings to go with eight strikeouts. Hoffman has been named as one of Detroit's pitchers in the Arizona Fall League, so I think he will NOT be called up to save his arm for Arizona.
- LUIS MARTE (YES): On the season Marte is 3-2 with a pair of saves and a 3.97 ERA for the Mud Hens with 10 walks and 23 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. Lately he has been sensational: In his last six appearances he has given up just two hits and four walks in 8.1 innings while fanning 11. Based on his recent numbers and his success with Detroit, I think he WILL be called up.
- ANDY OLIVER (YES): For the season Oliver is 5-9 with a 4.98 ERA. He has allowed just 100 hits while striking out 109 in 115.2 innings, but 87 walks in that span is just too many. Recently he moved to a relief role and gave up 15 hits and 11 walks in 14.1 innings while striking out 17. Because of the walks, I think he will NOT be called up, and instead will begin to prepare for a relief role when spring training begins next season.
- JOSE ORTEGA (YES): The 23-year-old right-hander is 5-7 with a 5.88 ERA with the Mud Hens, having allowed 72 hits and walked 50 in 59.2 innings. Despite those numbers, there is a lot to like about the pitcher International League managers said had the league's best fastball. But that is down the road ... I think he will NOT be called up.
- LUKE PUTKONEN (YES): For the season the 26-year-old is 3-2 with a 4.42 ERA with the Hens. He has made some mechanical adjustments that have improved his numbers significantly: In August he has allowed just seven hits and four walks in 11 innings, and IL batters have hit just .184 against him this month. But like Hoffman, he is slated to pitch in the AFL, so I think he will NOT be called up and instead will prepare for Arizona.
- BRUCE RONDON (NO): Here is an example of where not being on the 40-man has an effect. Rondon has been amazing all season, and that hasn't stopped in Toledo as he brings a fastball that sits comfortably at 100 mph. He has allowed four hits in six innings, striking out seven but walking five. My guess is he will NOT be promoted, but trust me when I tell you he will be in Detroit's plans for next season.
- DANIEL SCHLERETH (YES, BUT NO): This is a tricky one. Schlereth is technically NOT on the 40-man since he is on the 60-day disabled list. To activate him, the Tigers would need to make room on the 40-man roster. Also, he's on a rehab assignment, but that doesn't mean anything here. His numbers haven't been good with the Hens, but he hasn't been pounded by any means. My guess is that he will return to Detroit but will NOT be activated unless there is a need.
- ADAM WILK (YES): Wilk has been the Mud Hens' best starter this season, posting a deceiving 7-11 record but also notching a 2.76 ERA (fourth-best in the IL) as well as allowing just 119 hits and 28 walks in 143.2 innings while fanning 120. All of the metrics are good for Wilk -- opponents batting average of .222 is league's fourth-best among starters, 9.21 baserunners per nine innings is best among IL starters, and 1.69 walks per nine is third -- but I just have a negative feeling about this. I've only got Detroit calling up three pitchers so far, but Jim Leyland's words about having just a limited number of call-ups keep ringing in my brain. If it were my call, I would bring him up. It's not my call, and for some unexplainable reason I think he will NOT be called up.
By the way, I've completed scouting reports on a parade of Mud Hens pitchers over the past few days. Click here to read about Saturday's pitchers (four), click here to read about Sunday's pitchers (four) and click here to read about Tuesday's pitchers (six, but really five).
Friday: A look at potential position-player call-ups by the Tigers.