Garcia will begin season on disabled list
Young outfielder's training camp cut short by bruised heel; Tigers send four to Minors
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Avisail Garcia, who is ranked the Tigers' No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, the team announced Tuesday as part of a handful of Spring Training moves.
Reliever Luke Putkonen was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while left-hander Jose Alvarez, catcher Brad Davis and utility man Kevin Russo were all assigned to Minor League camp. All of them are expected to be part of the Mud Hens' roster when their season opens.
Once right-hander Shawn Hill was reassigned to Minor League camp following his start Tuesday, the Tigers' Spring Training roster was down to 29 players. Manager Jim Leyland still hopes to have it down to 25 by Thursday.
Garcia was a late-season hero for the Tigers as a September callup and postseason platoon player last year, appearing in 12 games, including making two starts in the World Series. However, his chances of making a Major League Opening Day roster for the first time seemed long from the outset of camp in February.
For one thing, team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said that Garcia would have to earn more playing time than just select starts against left-handed pitching, the role he had down the stretch last year, to make the 25-man roster. From a pure developmental standpoint, the thought process went, Garcia would benefit more from regular playing time at Triple-A Toledo.
In addition, the bruised right heel Garcia sustained a week ago pretty much eliminated his chances. He didn't begin putting weight on his right foot again until late last week, and the 21-year-old hasn't played in any sort of competition since the injury.
Garcia hit .206 (7-for-34) with one home run and three RBIs in 34 at-bats before the injury.
The Tigers could keep Garcia in Lakeland to work his way back into playing shape and then send him out on a rehab assignment sometime in April.
Putkonen will reprise his relief role with Toledo in hopes of getting an in-season callup. The 26-year-old allowed six runs on 14 hits in 13 2/3 innings this spring, walking five batters, hitting three and striking out 14.
Alvarez earned some consideration as a second lefty in the Tigers' bullpen, but he is expected to begin the season in the Mud Hens' rotation as an insurance starter. He allowed three earned runs on 13 hits over 9 2/3 innings, with a walk and six strikeouts.
Add in Hill, who allowed five earned runs on 21 hits over 19 innings this spring with a Triple-A start mixed in, and Leyland is feeling slightly more confident about his starting depth than he did a couple weeks ago. It's not enough depth to justify dealing Rick Porcello, who was announced to fill the open spot in the Tigers rotation, but it's enough to suggest Detroit isn't headed for disaster if it gets past six starters this year. "If [Hill] can do what he has shown me this spring, and Alvarez can do what he has shown me this spring, maybe we do have more than what we thought," Leyland suggested.
Russo quietly had a pretty good camp, batting .308 (12-for-39) with four doubles, two homers and five RBIs despite a 2-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.