LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers have yet to officially announce their Minor League signings, but they confirmed reports of various signings, including former Triple-A Toledo slugger Mike Hessman.
Hessman, who turns 36 in March, signed a Minor League contract that does not include a Spring Training invitaton to big league camp. He won't get to compete for a Major League spot, but he'll be back in the spot where he became a minor hero with the Mud Hens from 2005-09.
Hessman hit 140 home runs over five seasons in Toledo, comprising more than half of his 244 home runs in the International League. He needs just 14 to match the league record held by former Buffalo Bison Ollie Carnegie.
"It's more we wanted a famous bat for Toledo," Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila said.
Hessman will be a designated hitter and part-time third baseman in Toledo, according to Avila. Jordan Lennerton is expected to handle the starting duties at first base, Hessman's old job.
Also signed were catcher Ronny Paulino, who will back up top catching prospect James McCann in Toledo, along with right-hander Jhan Marinez and Eduardo Sanchez.
Vizquel to tutor Castellanos on transition back to third
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nick Castellanos' return to third base is going to get some help from one of the best shortstops to ever play the game.
Omar Vizquel, fresh off being named to the Tigers staff as first-base and infield coach, is scheduled to pay a visit to Castellanos sometime after the holidays to work with him at his South Florida home. Manager Brad Ausmus confirmed the visit, which Vizquel had previously revealed to a Venezuelan reporter.
"I talked to Omar about going down and seeing Nick prior to the beginning of Spring Training," Ausmus said. "Omar was going to get in touch with Nick and arrange that sometime shortly after the holidays. I don't know the specifics on it, but that's the plan."
When the Tigers hired Vizquel last month, the connection between him and Jose Iglesias, the Tigers' young shortstop, was obvious. Iglesias has drawn comparisons to Vizquel defensively while coming up in the Red Sox farm system, and Vizquel's desire to coach in the big leagues made the opportunity to use him as a mentor too good to pass up.
However, the chance for Vizquel to mentor Castellanos quietly makes sense. Detroit's top prospect, according to MLB.com, converted from third base to outfield midway through the 2012 season, has been taking ground balls at third base since the Prince Fielder trade opened up an infield spot last month.
Castellanos had never played the outfield before 2012. He was a shortstop in high school, then made his pro debut at third in 2011. Scouting reports on his defense at third had been mixed, with more praise on his arm.
"We think he'll move over there and do fine at third base," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He'll be more comfortable at third base than he will in left field, even though he hasn't played there in a while, because it's more of his natural position. He's an infielder."
Lombardozzi to back up Iglesias at shortstop
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Steve Lombardozzi joined the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade looking to fill a potential super utility role. That job will apparently include being primary backup shortstop to Jose Iglesias.
It's an adjustment, because Lombardozzi has only two career Major League games at shortstop over his 257-game career in Washington. As a spot fill-in and an occasional starter to rest Iglesias, however, the Tigers believe he can hold his own.
"I think he can go over there and play there," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "I don't think he's a guy you'd pencil in for a month if something happens. That's why you have a guy like Hernan Perez, who probably could do that. We've already talked about it."
Perez is the Tigers' second baseman of the future, but he began last season playing shortstop at Double-A Erie out of necessity. With Ian Kinsler now a Tiger, Perez's route to the big leagues is on hold, and he's expected to open the year at Triple-A Toledo.
A murkier future lies for utility infielder Danny Worth, who has spent the last few seasons waiting for a shot in Detroit while Ramon Santiago held down the utility job. After parts of five seasons in Toledo, the 28-year-old Worth is out of options, so the Tigers would have to get him through waivers to keep him if he doesn't make Detroit's Opening Day roster.