MLB.com Tigers beat writer Jason Beck participated in a live web chat with fans on Tuesday. During the chat he answered questions about how the timeshare at second base between Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Brandon Inge will play out, who will win the competition for the fifth starter and which team poses the biggest threat for the Tigers in the American League Central.
Jason Beck: Good morning. Ready to chat away while watching Phil Coke pitch in a camp game.
MuddyWaters: Jason, who do you see as the fifth starter? Who do you see with the final bullpen spot?
Jason Beck: Still early, and I know one outing could change a lot, but Andy Oliver looks really good right now. Commanding fastball better, good slider. Him and [Duane] Below look good early. [Adam] Wilk's in there too.
robc930: Do you have the Tigers lineup for tonight's game yet? Prince [Fielder] and/or Miguel [Cabrera] headed to Viera?
Jason Beck: Fielder wasn't on the travel roster as of yesterday. Haven't seen a lineup yet. Should know that this afternoon hopefully.
DetroitTIgerFan: Do you think the Tigers should pick up another pitcher?
Jason Beck: I think they'd like to fill the fifth starter from within camp if at all possible. For one, the talent's here to do it. Second, I think they'd like to develop a young pitcher this year around this kind of support. If you can't do it on this team, when can you?
MuddyWaters: Most Tigers fans are fearful of Raburn's defense at second base ... have you seen any improvement?
Jason Beck: I think Raburn has looked OK at second thus far. Had a bad play at the Rays last week, but otherwise has been fine. He's getting repetitions there, unlike last spring.
urem: Who do you think is going to get the second base job?
Jason Beck: Could be a time share there. [Jim] Leyland talked about it yesterday as a playing time issue, not a roster issue. Said he has enough second base options until the end of time.
tntiger47: Jason, first thanks for doing this. Who do you see getting the 25th spot, [Andy] Dirks or [Clete] Thomas?
Jason Beck: Good question. Both have looked good so far. If all things are equal, one would think Thomas, since he's out of options and Dirks is not.
jaxonmd: With the way that Inge and Raburn are both playing, could they move Raburn to left field and keep them both in the lineup?
Jason Beck: I think it's possible you could see Raburn getting some time in the outfield. Leyland referenced that flexibility early in camp. So far, though, he hasn't had any playing time besides second base.
WTKCHCFPF: They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but do you think Brandon Inge will hit the ball to right field this year instead of trying to pull everything?
Jason Beck: Talked with somebody yesterday who said he looks better at doing that so far. He doesn't look quite as pull happy. That might be a reaction to how pitchers are throwing this early, but it's better than last year.
pup6969: How does Daniel Schlereth look this spring? Is his spot a certainty in the bullpen?
Jason Beck: Schlereth looks all right. I think he's pretty well set as the second lefty. If they're going to carry three lefties, and I think it's very possible, then Schlereth is definitely a part of it.
DetroitTIgerFan: How do you think Cabrera will do at third? So far he seems pretty good.
Jason Beck: Better than I expected when they first made the move. If you believe attitude makes a difference, I think Cabrera has given himself the best possible chance. I think he'll make the plays he gets to, and probably get to a few more balls than expected.
MuddyWaters: How far off are Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos? Is the only thing holding Garcia back now pitch recognition and plate discipline?
Jason Beck: I think this year's going to be pretty telling for Garcia. He's going to a more hitter-friendly league at Double-A, and a park that should favor his power better. I think he's still more than a year away, but the promise is there. Castellanos, I think, is a couple years off. I think the roster up in Detroit means you don't have to fast-track him, and can let him mature as as hitter.
fnhack: If [Rick] Porcello doesn't have a breakout year (16-plus wins), could this be his last with the Tigs?
Jason Beck: Porcello and [Max] Scherzer are both coming into big years from contract standpoints. Usually when the Tigers have signed pitchers to long-term contracts, it has been after their fourth seasons. Porcello has a little more time before free agency than Scherzer, since he has less than three full seasons of service time, but it's worth watching.
8hunt: Are there any unexpected youngsters opening some eyes that might contribute in the near future?
Jason Beck: I think Matt Hoffman, though he has missed some time with the come-backer off the knee, has made an impression. He hasn't gotten much attention, but he has pitched quite well. Leyland has mentioned [Luis] Marte and [Jose] Ortega looking good, for what it's worth.
JDphan: It seems designated hitter is going to be a timeshare also? Who do you see in this spot for most of the games?
Jason Beck: Looking like a timeshare right now. I could see Delmon [Young] getting a decent number of starts there. [Alex] Avila could start there to manage the wear and tear of catching on occasion, kind of like what the Twins did with [Joe] Mauer a few years ago. Cabrera and Fielder, too. Maybe Raburn if second base options work out.
7563: Assuming Raburn and Inge both keep hitting, how do you think Leyland will incorporate both of them and Santiago into his lineup?
Jason Beck: Good question. When it was Raburn and Santiago you could see a lefty-righty platoon. Adding Inge into the mix seemingly changes that. If Raburn gets a game here and there at DH or left field, it would ease some of that.
8hunt: Who is looking like the Tigers' main competition in the Central?
Jason Beck: Kansas City has the makings of a really formidable offense, but they need pitching to grow up fast. Cleveland has makings of a nice pitching staff if Ubaldo [Jimenez] settles in, but need to fill holes in offense. Minnesota absolutely has to have [Justin] Morneau and Mauer back in form to contend.
rupyd: More homers this season: [Brennan] Boesch or Delmon?
Jason Beck: Boesch could be primed for a really good year, the way he's swinging the bat. Delmon looks good, too, but Boesch might be set up better for homers between ballpark and opponents.
doc1234: So, it's clear that Leyland won't be subbing Cabrera on defense, but who will be the likely candidates for regular defensive substitutions. Young? Raburn at second? Anyone?
Jason Beck: Left field and second base would be the logical spots. You could do it in right field, too, but not sure how necessary that is.
MuddyWaters: Is Scherzer still trying to find a consistent release point?
Jason Beck: Scherzer looks good so far. He has said he feels way ahead of where he was at this point last year. Considering how tough he has been on himself in past camps, that says a lot.
philcokesbrain: JASON!!! Who is the Tigers' best left-handed pitcher? Also, I just pencil in Xavier wherever I can in my bracket right?
Jason Beck: Phil Coke is the best left-handed pitcher I have seen in this camp game this morning, although that first inning was a bit rough. I'm not sure who God roots for in a Xavier vs. Notre Dame matchup.
urem: How's Avila looking? Do you think he will have a similar year from 2011?
Jason Beck: I think he looks all right. He seems to feel pretty comfortable this spring. Those numbers from last year will be pretty tough to match, but I think he's in a good position for RBIs.
Elan175: Hi Jason. I've always been curious as to why teams sign veterans that clearly are heading for Triple-A when they're pursuing 30 year olds (Jerad Head, Matt Young, etc). Why not promote the kids? Is a veteran presence that crucial at that level? Thanks.
Jason Beck: The thing you want to avoid is promoting kids too quickly out of need. Tigers have been conscious of that, especially at the Triple-A level. They've also tried to field a club that can win down there, which helps out the Mud Hens a lot.
8hunt: How close were the Tigers to landing Yoenis Cespedes? Was anyone surprised he signed with Oakland?
Jason Beck: Not close from everything I've heard. The A's supposedly had a presence scouting him in the Dominican while the Tigers were there too. I think the offer was the shock.
JDphan: An article stated yesterday Boesch left the game after the first inning because of the scheduling? Last we he complained of a sore shoulder, it's OK I hope?
Jason Beck: Boesch told me on his way out it wasn't health-related and he was fine. He didn't have his shoulder wrapped or anything like that.
jgoblue80: People are caught up in the fifth starter competition, but do you think the key to the rotation could actually be Rick Porcello, who's coming into his fourth full year and is poised to break out?
Jason Beck: Porcello and Scherzer are major keys. Those are guys you need to get going for a postseason run. If Tigers need a big-name fifth starter to get to October, they have bigger problems than the fifth starter.
Jason Beck: A couple more questions.
WTKCHCFPF: Everyone seems to think Prince Fielder's stats will go down this year because he's in a different league and ballpark. Do you agree?
Jason Beck: Conventional thinking says change of leagues has an impact, because you're learning new pitchers. That's the big question. I don't think the ballpark will be a big detriment. It's not as tough on lefty hitters as its reputation.
JDphan: Why do you think the Tigers DO NOT get the media attention like other teams?
Jason Beck: I've seen almost every national writer I could think of stop by Tigers camp at some point, maybe a couple guys left to stop by. They're definitely on the radar.
Jason Beck: Gotta run. Thanks for getting me through four innings of this camp game everybody!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.