Worth optioned to Triple-A as Tigers finalize roster

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Danny Worth shuttled between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo five different times last season. The fact that he'll be opening the season back with the Mud Hens shouldn't be a surprise, given the Tigers' roster situation.

That didn't make the move Thursday that finalized Detroit's Opening Day roster any easier.

"It was a good conversation, because he's such a respectful kid. It wasn't a fun conversation," manager Jim Leyland said Thursday in announcing the move to option him back.

Worth has posted pretty good springs the past couple years, but his early hitting stood out this time around. The 27-year-old had an uptick in playing time with Miguel Cabrera and Omar Infante off at the World Baseball Classic and used the at-bats to make an impression.

He was originally believed to be an option for the final bench spot against Don Kelly and Quintin Berry. Once Kelly won that spot on Wednesday, however, Worth stuck around, and his case became a question of what, if anything, Detroit would do with Ramon Santiago.

Santiago signed a two-year contract before last season, but an American League talent evaluator said Detroit was making him available in a potential trade. Santiago will make $2.1 million guaranteed this season, and the Tigers would've had to eat a bulk of the salary to facilitate a deal.

Much like last year's Winter Meetings, when Santiago's name first popped up in trade rumors, no deal happened. Thus, Worth is a Mud Hen again. He finished his spring batting .317 (13-for-41) with five doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, six walks and seven strikeouts.

"He's played great," Leyland said. "He's hitting better than I've seen him. He's playing better than I've seen. He looks like a big leaguer, and he is a big leaguer, but that's not much consolation for him today."

The Tigers announced the move after the game. Because they were on the road, Worth ended up on the team bus back to Lakeland, Fla., where he'll report to Minor League camp on Friday or Saturday.

Last year's back-and-forth certainly suggests Worth will return at some point, but it could very well be the same shuttle situation. The Tigers can use his option as many times as they wish, but he'll be out of options next year.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.