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Seventh-Inning Stretch: Exploring the Tigers bullpen; is Bryce Harper a first-round pick?

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Jose Valverde isn't walking through that door, thankfully (USAT)

Pitchers and catchers have finally reported to their respective Florida and Arizona camps, and the baseball wire is finally springing with some news of note. It's time for a lap around the diamond.

The Tigers have an obvious vacancy at their closer position but manager Jim Leyland isn't in any hurry to settle things. In fact, it's possible the Tigers might break camp without naming their bullpen chairman.

Rookie Bruce Rondon has the highest theoretical upside on the roster, but we're still talking about a 22-year-old who's never thrown a pitch in the major leagues.

[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Let's pick up the story from Steve Kornacki of Fox Sports Detroit:

Leyland was asked if the closer spot was 22-year-old rookie Bruce Rondon’s job to lose.

“No, it’s not like that,” Leyland said. “I’m going to look at all my options, and hopefully I’ll make a decision.

"But I doubt anyone will be anointed the closer out of spring training. It might happen, but I doubt it. It’s a front-burner thing that is on the back-burner.”

It’s a big decision, but Leyland doesn’t have to make it until the Tigers take the lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of a game in the opening series at Minnesota.

“I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on the kid,” Leyland said. “I’m not going to set it now.”

Leyland rattled off the names of Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal as possibilities beyond Rondon.

Eventually, the Tigers figure to have just one man in the ninth inning chair, even if a trade is required. While managers generally don't mind having a closer-by-committee for a limited amount of time, it isn't a strategy most modern skippers want to stick with. Putting someone at the top of the chart makes managing easier, and helps deflect criticism. For better or for worse, it's the way the game is played - we're better off accepting it and reacting to it.

• The Delmon Young plan in Philadelphia is going to take some time to develop. Young is coming off November ankle surgery, and while the team initially felt Young would be ready for spring training activities on time, it's now considered likely he'll start the year on the disabled list. The Phillies have a cast of thousands at the corner outfield spots, between scuffling prospect Domonic Brown, former first-round pick John Mayberry Jr. and last year's power spark at Double-A, Darin Ruf.

If I had to take any of these guys late in a mixer I lean towards Ruf, a bet on the upside of the unknown. You get the idea the Phillies have soured on Brown to the point that he might not get a fair shake here.

• While Young has spent the offseason trying to lose weight (hello, incentive clauses), Mike Trout took the opposite tack. The Anaheim wunderkind added 10-15 pounds of muscle over the winter, making a quick impression with the assembled media. Here's a tweet from beat writer Mike DiGiovanna:

Last season, ‪#Angels‬ OF Mike Trout looked like an NFL RB. He looks more like a FB now, after gaining 10-15 lbs. He reported at 240 lbs.

Fantasy owners will have to hope Trout's added bulk won't cost him anything in the flexibility department, but after watching him dominate the AL last year, there's no overwhelming reason to bet against him. He's still the No. 2 player on my overall board.

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New kid in town (USAT)

• The Indians and Michael Bourn finally put their four-year contract to bed, announcing the $48 million package officially on Friday. The Bourn acquisition sets off a wheel play in Cleveland, essentially filling the team's DH void in the process. Drew Stubbs shifts to right field, Nick Swisher moves to first, and Mark Reynolds is now free to hack away at a gloveless spot. The Tribe probably has the second-best lineup in the AL Central right now; the pitching staff will decide how far the team can go.

The Yahoo! staff is mildly split on Bourn's fantasy potential - Dalton Del Don (21), Brad Evans (23) and Andy Behrens (23) seem more interested, while Brandon Funston and yours truly rank Bourn at No. 29. My dissent on rabbits like Bourn: selecting them will often lock you out of even cheaper players, offering similar profiles, in the later stages of a draft.

• The Athletics are one of those teams that like to recycle and flip the closer as often as possible, and the wheel is already spinning for 2013. Grant Balfour, the expected ninth-inning sheriff, had a knee scope Thursday and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle are the next names in line; Cook has the advantage of previous closing experience in the majors (if that even matters), while Doolittle has Pixies Karma on his side. Forced to take one of these guys right now, I'd lean towards Cook.

• When it comes to injury news and spin, we have to be careful with any quote a player supplies regarding his own status. It's generally difficult for any player to see his own situation in less-than-glowing terms. It's a world of fast recoveries and rose-colored glasses.

That disclaimer established, it's still nice to hear Ricky Romero talking encouragingly about his elbow. Romero had a horrendous 2012 season (5.77 ERA, 105 walks) and the balky elbow was blamed for much of it. He had surgery in October.

"It feels 100 times better," Romero told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. "I wasn't able to rotate it at one point; I was so sore at the end of the year." The Y-5 currently has Romero 73rd on the starting pitcher board.

• In case you missed it, the LABR Mixed League Draft went down Tuesday night in cyberspace. It's an expert-filled 15-team 5x5 draft, 29 rounds and 435 picks. Our own Dalton Del Don waved the Y! flag in the five spot, starting off his team with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Hamilton. (Dalton will discuss some of the LABR of Love on the Fantasy Freak Show; tune in to D3 and Brad Evans at 8 pm ET.)

Take a look at the entire draft, see what you like and don't like. I'm already on record as being against the Buster Posey first-round pick. It was interesting to see Bryce Harper land at 14th overall. Let's toss some thoughts around.

Looking for more fantasy baseball chat? Here's Dr. Andy Behrens with the Yahoo! Fantasy Minute, giving you three upside arms to target on draft day.

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