Notes: Seay makes case for bullpen

Notes: Seay makes case for bullpen

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Bobby Seay can check his luggage a little easier now, among other things.

As one of four relievers uncertain about his status with three spots available on the club, Seay has understandably been a little nervous in the final days of Spring Training. When manager Jim Leyland shouted for traveling secretary Bill Brown on Thursday morning, Seay jumped.

"I was calling for Brownie, and he thought I said Bobby," Leyland said. "He was in there in about two seconds. He's a nervous wreck, and I said, 'Well, how do you think I feel?' I'm a little nervous myself."

At least Leyland knew he himself was heading north with the big club, though. Seay didn't, but as long as he had the manager's attention, he was going to ask if he should put his stuff on the truck headed for Detroit.

"I told him to put his stuff on the truck," Leyland said, "unless he wants to go around naked for a few days."

The final roster move still hadn't happened as of Thursday afternoon, but it's expected to involve Franklyn German, who reportedly was placed on waivers. Both he and Jason Grilli are out of options, meaning they'd have to pass through waivers before the Tigers could outright them to Triple-A Toledo. Neither pitched in Thursday's loss to the Indians at Chain of Lakes Park, but neither did Seay.

If expectations hold, Seay would be the latest in Detroit's search for a second left-handed reliever. Doug Creek and Vic Darensbourg tried it last year with limited success. Steve Colyer was the choice two years ago and struggled mightily. Steve Avery and Eric Eckenstahler gave it a shot before that.

Detroit has had a revolving door of lefty relievers over the last three years, and none of them have lasted long enough to stick for more than a year. That affected former manager Alan Trammell's bullpen options, and it affected to some extent how primary lefty Jamie Walker has been used. He has held left-handed hitters to a .228 batting average over his career compared to .285 against righties. While he has shown the ability to handle an inning or more, he has more often been saved to face two or three hitters in a game.

That was seen more in 2005 than in seasons past. Last year marked the first time in three full seasons as a Tiger that he didn't appear in at least 70 games, reaching 66 instead. Yet his innings showed a more marked drop, from 64 2/3 innings in 2004 to 48 2/3 innings last year. Less than a third of his appearances last year, 21 out of 66, lasted more than 15 pitches, compared to nearly half in 2004.

President/general manager Dave Dombrowski talked last fall about his hope of adding a lefty to the bullpen. The problem was, most other teams had the same idea. By the later stages of the offseason, they had decided to go with non-roster invitees Seay and Hector Mercado, though they were linked with trade efforts this month involving Washington's Joey Eischen and Philadelphia's Rheal Cormier.

However, Leyland likes what he sees out of Seay, the former first-round draft pick who never blossomed in Tampa Bay and bounced to Colorado last year.

"From what I've seen so far, he's got a good arm," Leyland said. "He's in the best shape of his life. He needs to get his breaking ball away from left-handers a little better. He has to make sure he throws strikes. If he can do that, he's got a chance to get a big-league hitter out. He's kind of an interesting guy.

"I have a lot of respect for old-time managers, and one of Earl Weaver's big things was that left-handers can come late. A lot of those left-handers, you see they're still pitching at 40. Some of them might not have been too good early and might not have even been in the big leagues early."

Talk to the kids: So why was Leyland nervous Thursday? He was set to address the entire Minor League camp in the morning, something player development director Glenn Ezell asked Trammell to do last year, and Leyland this year.

Leyland used his 20-minute speech to tell the farmhands what he believes it takes to make it in baseball, talk about getting a chance, and explain how he believes players should go about their business.

"I told them I was interested in players, not athletes," Leyland said. "I want a baseball player. I can find a lot of guys who can dunk a basketball. I can also find a lot of guys who can't hit one. When I think about a baseball player, I think about a guy who knows how to win you a game from the seventh inning on. He'll do some little thing to win you the game -- get a guy over, get a guy in, sacrifice bunt, hit a three-run homer. Those are the guys that I want. I made it pretty obvious."

Pudge update: Ivan Rodriguez missed his third consecutive game Thursday, but he showed improvement while he tries to shake off the virus he's been battling. He took batting practice with the team Thursday morning in Lakeland and is expected to play Friday and Saturday against the Devil Rays.

Coming up: The Tigers close out the Lakeland portion of their Spring Training schedule Friday with a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Devil Rays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Nate Robertson will try to end his spring struggles on a positive note when he makes the start. Chris Spurling, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are also scheduled to pitch. Mark Hendrickson will start for Tampa Bay.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.