LAKELAND, Fla. -- A week ago, Andrew Romine was fighting for a utility infield job, out of Minor League options and watching to see what his next step was going to be. He never figured to be battling for regular playing time at shortstop on a contending team by the end of camp.
"The circumstances that happened to [Jose] Iglesias, that's terrible," Romine said. "You never wish for that to happen to anybody in baseball. I'm coming here and basically doing whatever I can to help the team get some W's."
Elsewhere in Florida, Stephen Drew was in a similar unaccustomed position, working out at a Scott Boras facility in Miami while he awaits a deal with a team. He couldn't have anticipated still looking for a club at this point, with Opening Day a week away, even with the Draft-pick compensation impacting his market.
Romine can't control whether the Tigers make a last-minute run at Drew, anymore than he could control what happened with Iglesias. Even if Romine tears up the Grapefruit League this coming week, the question about Drew isn't going to be in comparison to him. As long as the shortstop job is open to him, though, he's going to control what he can.
"I don't know exactly how it's going to work out," Romine said, "but I know that I can help the team win, whether it's running or hitting or defense or anything. I'm basically just going to do the same thing I've done my whole career, just play as hard as I can and help the team win."
Romine made his Tigers debut Sunday, starting at shortstop in their loss to the Marlins. He made a putout and a couple of assists at short while going 0-for-4 at the plate. He'll start again on Monday, when the Tigers face the Pirates in Bradenton.
It's essentially a crash course for manager Brad Ausmus to get a look at a shortstop he admits he knew next to nothing about before the trade.
"I've never seen the guy play," said Ausmus. "I've got to see him play, at least a little bit. We've got to see Romine play."
The guy on staff who did know something about him is Omar Vizquel, who worked with Romine at different times last year while he was an infield instructor in the Angels organization. That's not nearly as much as Romine knows about Vizquel.
"The funny thing, when I was growing up in Anaheim, we would go to Angel games," Romine said. "And when Omar would come to town, my dad would take me down to the fence before the game, when they were taking BP and ground balls. And he would tell me, 'Watch him. That is how you do what you want to do.' So for me to be able to have him in the same camp as me and be able to talk to him and basically just pick his brain every little thing that he can give me, that was awesome. I was awestruck."
If the Tigers make no more moves, the switch-hitting Romine, who hit only left-handed last year before going back to both sides, is in line to split time at shortstop with a right-handed hitter, either Danny Worth -- a similar defense-first shortstop -- or Hernan Perez. If the Tigers make a move, obviously, that changes.
For now, Ausmus isn't committing to a playing time mix.
"It could change as we move into the season, and during the course of the season," Ausmus said.
Suarez headlines latest Tigers cut from camp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Eugenio Suarez might become part of the Tigers' shortstop mix at some point this year, depending on circumstances. For now, however, he's not ready, which is why the Tigers didn't wait for the final roster moves to option him out.
Suarez was one of eight cuts from Tigers camp Sunday morning. He was optioned to Triple-A Toledo along with right-handed reliever Jose Ortega and left-handed starter Kyle Lobstein. Non-roster outfield candidates Ezequiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe, meanwhile, were sent to Minor League camp along with extra catchers Craig Albernaz, Luis Exposito and John Murrian.
The moves whittle down the roster situation to three key decisions at shortstop, left field and relief. But the final decisions later this week could come down as much to judging the roster as judging the player.
Suarez made an impression on team officials, but with no experience above Double-A ball, the experience factor was too much to overcome. He was 7-for-33 in camp with three RBIs and eight strikeouts.
"I just think he needs to get more at-bats," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's got a chance to be a good player. He just needs more experience."
His demotion leaves Danny Worth and Hernan Perez to compete for a platoon role at shortstop alongside Andrew Romine on the Opening Day roster. If the Tigers don't add another shortstop, such as free-agent Stephen Drew or a trade target such as Arizona's Didi Gregorius, Detroit will most likely carry two shortstops. If that's the case, Ausmus has one less roster spot to use on left field, where Rajai Davis will platoon with a left-handed hitter while Andy Dirks is out.
With Carrera and Crowe gone, Tyler Collins has a real chance to use his great camp as a springboard to make the jump from Double-A, where he hit just .240 last year. But a two-shortstop setup drastically hampers that and greatly increases the chance Davis shares time with Don Kelly and Steve Lombardozzi.
"Certainly it's not bad news for him that he's still here," Ausmus said, "but ultimately a decision has to be made on the roster as a whole and where he fits into it."
It was bad news for Carrera, who made an impression, especially defensively, on Ausmus.
Ortega made a push to force his way into the bullpen mix, coming to camp throwing at near-game intensity from his first session. However, the hard-throwing righty's 12 strikeouts over 9 2/3 innings were offset by seven hits and four walks.
"Great arm," Ausmus said. "Like many pitchers with a great arm, the key is consistency."
With Ortega out, Evan Reed, Luke Putkonen and Blaine Hardy would appear to be competing for two spots in the bullpen. Reed is out of Minor League options, which helps his case almost as much as his outstanding camp.
Kelly strains left hamstring while playing first
LAKELAND, Fla. -- After essentially season-ending injuries to Jose Iglesias and Bruce Rondon already this week, plus Rajai Davis still dealing with a bad hamstring, the last thing the Tigers need is another injury. The sight of Don Kelly limping on his left leg didn't help.
Kelly left Sunday's loss to the Marlins in the third inning with a left hamstring strain he sustained trying to field a first-inning bunt. He was starting at first base while Miguel Cabrera got in a game at third.
"I tried to push off to go tag [the runner], and when I did, I slipped and then it kind of just grabbed," Kelly said.
Kelly stayed in the game, but when he stepped to the plate to hit in the bottom of the second inning, "It just didn't feel right."
Kelly downplayed the severity, but said the medical staff will re-evaluate it on Monday.
"I think I'll be all right," Kelly said. "We're going to treat it tomorrow and then we'll see."
Miggy makes first spring start at third base
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera's big frame is back at first base this spring, but at least part of his heart remains at third, where he played regularly the past two years. In that sense, Sunday was a homecoming.
With an eye towards Interleague Play, manager Brad Ausmus used Sunday's game against the Marlins to get Cabrera some time at third. It's not an option he plans on using, but he wants to be ready for it.
"He looked fine," Ausmus said. "I would feel very confident putting him over there for a game or two if we had to."
Cabrera said after the game he felt good back at third.
That makes it sound more like an emergency option than managerial discretion. If Cabrera moved to third for a game, it would open up DH Victor Martinez to start at first base while keeping Alex Avila behind the plate. The more publicized plan for Interleague Play involves using Martinez at catcher.
The Tigers don't have long before they have to put plans to work. Their first road trip of the season consists of five Interleague games -- two against the Dodgers, followed by three in San Diego.
• Rajai Davis will return to action after missing close to a week with a sore right hamstring, but it'll be in a Minor League game. Davis was originally in the lineup for Monday's Major League game against the Pirates, but was shifted across the street as a precaution.
• Joe Nathan gave up his first major damage of camp, allowing four runs in the ninth to nullify a Tigers comeback. Ausmus said he was focused more on Nathan's velocity Sunday, which was up, than his results, which were down. "He said he was just yanking the sinker a little bit," Ausmus said. "No big concern."