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Published: Wednesday, 3/31/2010

Mud Hens' staff coming together

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

LAKELAND, Fla. - The Mud Hens pitching staff began taking shape as the Tigers moved five players off the major league roster Saturday.

Two players, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez and highly touted pitching prospect Daniel Schlereth, were optioned to the Hens.

Three others - pitchers Phil Dumatrait and Enrique Gonzalez and catcher Max St-Pierre - were assigned to Detroit's minor league camp, a technicality since they weren't on the 40-man roster. But manager Jim Leyland made it clear both Dumatrait and Gonzalez will open the year on Toledo's roster.

Ramirez was with the Hens for 11 games in 2008 and for 113 games last season, when he hit 17 home runs and stole 33 bases. He is not yet a polished fielder, and the Tigers would like to see him have greater success hitting against breaking pitches.

"Like any young player, he needs to go play, and I don't have much [playing time] for him," Leyland said.

Schlereth saw his first major league action last season for Arizona in just his second professional season. He then was part of an off-season trade that also brought starter Max Scherzer to Detroit in exchange for pitcher Edwin Jackson.

The lefty struck out 22 batters in 181/3 innings last season with the Diamondbacks.

Speculation is that he will be groomed for a closer's role, but Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager isn't sure that will be the immediate plan.

"Stuff-wise, he can do a lot of things," Sager said of Schlereth. "Right now, though, I think the big thing is getting Daniel innings. You can't do that limiting him to one inning at a time."

Dumatrait, also a lefty, has pitched in the big leagues for both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh but spent most of last season rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Gonzalez, a right-hander, has pitched for three major league teams, including Arizona, San Diego, and Boston.

"Both were pleasant surprises; both made great impressions," Leyland said. "I think [Dumatrait] can pitch in the big leagues, and I think he will pitch in the big leagues. Gonzalez just has to eliminate that one mistake over the plate after two or three really good pitches."

ON THE DL: The Tigers announced yesterday that pitchers Zach Miner (right elbow tendinitis) and Bobby Seay have been placed on the 15-day disabled list. In reality, though, Seay will be out much longer after it was determined he has a partially torn rotator cuff in his left (throwing) shoulder.

Seay has been prescribed a rehab program that should take about six weeks if all goes well. Surgery would be a last resort.

"It's a sad situation," Leyland said. "I have a good feeling about the program and what could be the outcome, but that doesn't help Bobby now. He's down in the dumps. It's a heartache for him and, selfishly, for me, too. He's done a tremendous job for us the last few years."

THE LINEUP: Leyland said yesterday's exhibition lineup against the Yankees would be his opening-day lineup on April 6 in Kansas City.

The lineup, in batting order, was Austin Jackson, CF; Johnny Damon, LF; Magglio Ordonez, RF; Miguel Cabrera, 1B; Carlos Guillen, DH; Brandon Inge, 3B; Gerald Laird, C; Scott Sizemore, 2B; Adam Everett, SS.

Leyland said the only possible change would be if he flip-flopped Laird and Sizemore in the batting order.



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