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Jason Grilli faces uphill battle for 5th spot

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Jason Grilli faces uphill battle for 5th spot

Postby Dannomyte » Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:28 am

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jason Grilli knows the younger starters in Tigers camp have a better shot at the only open spot in the rotation. But he also knows what it's like to be a top prospect trying to break into the Majors. And he argues it's tougher on that side.

"When you're at the top of the stairs and you're in a (Justin) Verlander category and you're highly touted -- which is something I've been through -- I know the attention you get," he said. "I don't have the pressure anymore. I can go out and do my job. I know what's expected of me."

Grilli is the veteran option in a contest that appears to be leaning toward youth. When camp opened, manager Jim Leyland didn't want to mention the candidates by name because he didn't want to discourage anyone else from vying for the job. Since then, though, he has said Verlander and Roman Colon are in the mix.

"Whoever's in that fifth spot probably, most likely will be a younger guy, not a lot of experience," Leyland said Sunday morning.

Grilli realizes they're favored. If he doesn't make the rotation but still makes the club as a reliever, he'll be happy. But he wants a shot at a starting role, and he isn't shy about how he sees his chances.

"I'm pitching my way onto this team this Spring Training," he said. "Whether it's the fifth spot or a bullpen spot, I just want to help this club win. I know I can."

Grilli knows prospect pressure from experience, having been drafted fourth overall in 1997. Three years later, he was in the big leagues, winning his Major League debut in a spot start for the Florida Marlins on May 11, 2000. The next day, he was headed back to Triple-A. Two weeks later, he was on the disabled list with a strained elbow.

He missed the rest of that season for surgery to remove a bone spur, then underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002. In three years, he fell off the map after being one of the Marlins' top 10 prospects. Grilli's been fighting the roster situation ever since. He has the image of a well-traveled veteran, and he's a relatively young 29.

"I think I learned a lot about myself and what it means to me to go through adversity," he said. "Any adversity, I don't look at it as negative anymore. It just comes with experience."

Grilli found his way back with the organization where his father pitched three decades ago. After helping lead Triple-A Toledo to the International League's Governors Cup championship and winning his first Tigers start last Sept. 24, he earned another victory: He found his way onto the Tigers' 40-man roster this offseason.

After missing out on a spot last year as a Minor League invitee, Grilli's roster situation works better for him this time. He doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster to make the team. Plus, he's out of options, meaning the Tigers can't send him back to Triple-A without passing him through waivers.

So far, he has looked relatively polished, able to spot the ball in his second bullpen session on Sunday. He can't boast the overpowering fastball of Verlander or Joel Zumaya, but he's picked up the experience to pitch for quick outs and put the ball in play in his favor.

Grilli has to look good early, because he'll leave camp on March 3 to join Team Italy in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. A few good performances there and he could rejoin the Tigers later in March with something to fight for.

"Whatever it might be, I just know I can be an asset to this team," Grilli said. "Hopefully I can prove that once again this spring."
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Postby moochman » Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:59 am

If Grilli makes the starting rotation DD should be fired. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. But it would trigger early warning signs that Verlander isn't living up to the potential DD says he has and that the trade of Farnsworth was worthless as Colon couldn't even beat out BBQ Grilli for the five slot.
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Postby mcqfesijiba » Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:38 pm

I can't see Grilli making the rotation, outside of numerous injuries occuring. Even if Verlander were to struggle in the early going, he would still will put up better numbers. Colon if he pitched anywhere near how he did as a starter in Atlanta or the little we saw of him in Detroit in that role would be better than Grilli. Even though we already have 3 LHP, Ledezma would likely outperform Grilli, until he gets hurt anyways (of course there's no way we're going to see a 4 LHP rotation if it can be helped). Bottom line, I think that "uphill battle" is the best case scenario for Grilli and his name is just out there as a little extra competition to motivate Colon and Verlander. Grilli used to have good stuff, but those days are gone thanks to injuries. Stuff-wise right now, he would probably rank near the bottom of all MLB starters. I see this article as nothing more than an "underdog fighting the odds" sort of thing that we see every year.

If anything, I would say his best hope of making the roster is as a bullpen arm to attempt to make up for the likely loss of Dingman, but even there, players like Mantei and Woodyard will make that a tough competition.
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Postby mcqfesijiba » Mon Feb 20, 2006 2:41 pm

On another note: the rest of the article that wasn't posted here mentions that Leyland likes Polanco as the #2 hitter (no surprise) and that Leyland has also said that Dmitri Young may see more than just emergency duty at 3B. The latter is what makes me skeptical of these articles. Just too much speculation before we've even seen any game action. I do like that Leyland is at least keeping his options open in many regards based on what he says. It sure beats things like writing Pena's name down as the starting 1B before the season even begins with little or no competition for three or so years running. Whether or not most of these ideas become reality is a completely different story.
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Postby Dannomyte » Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:32 am

On another note: the rest of the article that wasn't posted here


Not sure what you mean. I posted the whole article. Here is the link.

http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/ ... &fext=.jsp
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Postby moochman » Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:57 am

mcqfesijiba wrote:On another note: the rest of the article that wasn't posted here mentions that Leyland likes Polanco as the #2 hitter (no surprise) and that Leyland has also said that Dmitri Young may see more than just emergency duty at 3B. The latter is what makes me skeptical of these articles. Just too much speculation before we've even seen any game action. I do like that Leyland is at least keeping his options open in many regards based on what he says. It sure beats things like writing Pena's name down as the starting 1B before the season even begins with little or no competition for three or so years running. Whether or not most of these ideas become reality is a completely different story.


Speaking of DaMeatHook. Did you hear that his reported weight loss was 20 lbs? For a man his size that is a drop in the bucket, and he had a pretty big buckett. Unless he was pounding weights for his method of reduction one could speculate that he went in the a spa for a last minute crash diet. Lets hope it was the weights.
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Postby mcqfesijiba » Tue Feb 21, 2006 11:47 am

The best info I can find on how Dmitri lost weight is this:
Tom Gage / The Detroit News
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Call it a tie.

On a day of good news for the Tigers at spring training, it wasn't all that difficult to determine which of two developments might have meant more. Even Dmitri Young would probably agree that Carlos Guillen's strong right knee was more significant than Young being able to tighten his belt.

But it wasn't necessary to rank them.

The health and outlook of both players was all that mattered. Guillen, who never fully recovered last season from previous knee problems, appears to have recovered now. He didn't play an entire season of winter ball in Venezuela, but enough for his confidence to keep climbing.

When asked how many games he hopes to play this year, Guillen said "every game."

Young didn't have a knee problem. He had a weight problem -- and a divorce problem. Both took a toll on him.. But he went to sweat camp in Arizona, or whatever those conditioning centers for professional athletes are called, and got himself back into shape.

Perhaps the best shape of his career.

He's still big, because Young won't ever be leprechaun size, but the Tigers can live with big -- as long as there's a well-conditioned athlete within. In Young's case now, there is.

"It's not like I'm 26 or 27, I'm 32," he said. "I'm up in age. I have to be a good example. I feel good, my mind's good, everything's good. My life's straight."

A big reason the Tigers didn't made any offseason moves to bolster their lineup is that, if healthy, it didn't need bolstering in their opinion. They like its looks as long as injuries don't deplete it as often happened last year.

With no surprises from Pudge Rodriguez, with Guillen feeling good, Young looking strong and Magglio Ordonez saying at TigerFest last month that he feels "like I'm 20 again," this season could begin with a lot more smiles than when last season ended.

Then again, if you could find any smile in the clubhouse at that point, it was probably for precisely that reason: the fact that the season was ending.

Guillen playing every day at short again is hugely important. But so is the thought of a motivated Young.

"The first thing I noticed with Carlos," said Brandon Inge, "is that he's not wearing that brace anymore. I never saw him without it last year."

The first thing you notice with Young is Young. There's less of him, although he won't say how much.

"Putting on a belt and being able to go two notches below (the old) notch," he said in describing the difference. "Putting on a shirt and instead of having it feel kind of snug, it droops. Getting compliments like "wow, you look good, how much weight did you lose?

"I feel great. But I'm single now. I can't be fat."

Young also feels great about the Tigers hiring Leyland.

"More important than what we did with players, we have a (coaching) staff that's going to take us to the next level," he said. "This is not their first time. Jim Leyland is the captain of this ship. There aren't going to be any other influences."

Such as?

Young wouldn't go there. That's in the past, like that old notch on his belt.
I know nothing about these "Sweat Camps" that are supposedly made for professional athletes or whatever they are, so I have no idea if it is a bad way of dieting or not. Regardless, an aging fat guy has to do something if he wants to get his career back on track. He'll be playing for a contract, and hopefully some pride as well as fending off a hopefully more motivated Pena. This is why I don't mind Leyland saying some of these things he's saying, even if some of them sound a bit crazy at first. Making these some of these guys think they have a chance at a starting job or in other cases not having a starting job handed to them can only motivate.
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Postby moochman » Tue Feb 21, 2006 12:28 pm

Man Spring must be right around the corner because everything sounds so good. Maggs feels like he's 20, Guillen doens't even know he has knees they feel so good, and DaMeatHook likes the coaching staff and is a happy thinner player.

Ahhh Spring. B-)
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