Craig Remsburg column: Tigers need some tweaking

Jim Leyland’s sudden – and unexpected – decision to retire as manager of the Detroit Tigers last week will no doubt lead to a busy offseason for the team.

Leyland, who said “we let it get away” when the team lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, thought his “fuel was getting a little low.”

The Tigers won’t be in a rebuilding mode for whoever the next manager turns out to be. With Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez – among others – expected to return, the club should contend for a World Series berth next season.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes. A little tweaking of the roster could put the team over the top and result in another fine season in 2014.

The Tigers need a lefthanded hitting outfielder who can hit for power, has some speed, or exhibits a combination of the two.

Andy Dirks isn’t the answer and another lefthanded-hitting outfielder, Don Kelly, is a reserve, at best.

If rookie – and top team prospect – Nick Castellanos is ready to play full time, the Tigers should give him that opportunity. He bats righthanded, but team officials believe he’s a bona-fide hitter.

If he’s still not ready, then someone with some speed would be nice, if not in the starting lineup, then in late-inning situations calling for the Tigers – a power-hitting team – to create a run or two.

The team needs to create some pressure for opposing relief pitchers, not wait for the extra-base hit that sometimes comes, sometimes not.

The Tigers also need a bullpen that’s more reliable. This past season, especially early, you never knew what you were going to get from the tam’s relievers.

Joaquin Benoit, who did a good job as the team’s closer when moved into that position after rookie Bruce Rondon couldn’t do the job, might be better as a set-up man. Benoit – a free agent – sparkled in that position for years.

Lefthander Drew Smyly was a pleasant surprise this season, but Al Alburquerque and Jose Veras were up-and-down. One game they’d shine, the next they’d stink.

Phil Coke apparently doesn’t have anything left and may not be with the team next season.

Free agency will be an issue for the Tigers and Tigers’ CEO/president/general manager Dave Dombrowski this offseason. Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago and Brayan Pena are among those joining Benoit on the open market.

It’ll be interesting to see what Dombrowski does. He usually makes the right moves.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is