Mailbag: Will long stretch affect plans?

Mailbag: Will long stretch affect Tigers' plans?

Starting April 8, the Tigers have 20 straight games without a day off. Will this influence the roster regarding the number of pitchers vs. position players the Tigers bring north?
-- Greg O., Toledo

That's a good catch, and probably the best question I received over the holidays, for what it's worth. It's actually pretty unusual to see that long of a stretch without an off-day in April, especially with so many games in northern cities with outdoor stadiums except for four games in Toronto. The flip side is that you rarely see makeup doubleheaders in April, anyway. The Tigers haven't played one since 1997.

But back to your question, I don't expect it will affect the roster in terms of numbers, since Jim Leyland has always been pretty firm on opening a season with a 12-man pitching staff. It could affect which relievers make the Opening Day roster if the last spot comes down to, say, a specialist or a guy who can eat some innings or make a spot start.

You are probably sick of Brandon Inge questions, but how possible would a trade to the Giants be, along with Nate Robertson for either Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain?
-- Bob B., Wallingford, Conn.

You're right about the Inge questions getting tiring. No offense, but until something actually happens, they're just the same questions and comments over and over and I think some folks are tired of reading them. To answer your question, such a trade would not be realistic; the Giants wouldn't give up either of their young starters in such a deal. You can't compare this to an Alex Rios type of deal, which was how the rumors of Lincecum on the block got going in the first place.

Kevin Hooper's departure from the organization has not been reported on here -- OK, I understand there have been way bigger stories. But what's your take on Hooper's departure to the Astros, and who's worth watching down there in the Toledo infield now?
-- Ljudivet G., Saginaw, Mich.

Hooper saw a better opportunity with the Astros, including an invitation to big-league camp, and he took it. No fault in that. However, if there's any area where the Tigers could have depth at the upper levels of their farm system, it's the middle infield. Michael Hollimon has a good chance to start the season at Toledo, where he could be ready as a callup to Detroit if he's needed. Tony Giarratano looks to be on track to be ready for the start of the season, but he'll need games to get back close to where he was after missing all of 2007 and part of '06. Brent Dlugach could be back by the end of April. Scott Sizemore needs more development, having spent last season at low Class A West Michigan, but his Fall League performance in Arizona at least showed the potential that could send him up the farm system quickly if the Tigers want to promote him up a level around midseason.

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The last two seasons the Tigers have struggled in the second half of the season. Does having a more veteran-laden team this year mean that should be more or less of a problem?
-- Russ R., London, Ontario

We'll have to wait and see. Keep in mind it's largely the same pitching staff as last year, except for Dontrelle Willis. But out of the new position players, Jacque Jones and Edgar Renteria were both better hitters in the second half last year. Still, comparing second half to first half gets into the injury question, and no matter how much people can draw from injury reputations, you can't predict with certainty who or how many.

Where does Jordan Tata stand in the farm system? Is he still viewed as a starter or reliever, and does he even stand a chance to break that rotation? Is he worth trading?
-- Jess H., Williamsburg, Va.

As of now, Tata comes into the year as depth in the rotation and possibly as a relief option, much the same as Yorman Bazardo and Virgil Vasquez. He won't break into the Detroit rotation unless there's an injury or some struggles somewhere along the line.

When Kenny Rogers retires, will Rick Porcello be ready and able to take his place? (This could conceivably happen after next season.)
-- Peter F., Toledo

One year would be way too little time to expect Porcello to be ready. Even with the most optimistic of projections, keep in mind he has yet to pitch in a professional game.

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