By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski remained mum Thursday on whether the team has engaged in long-term contract negotiations with starting pitcher David Price, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season.
Dombrowski prefers to re-sign players before they get too close to free agency, but he would not disclose whether the Tigers have begun the process with Price, who won the Cy Young in 2012.
"You don't always get everything philosophically the way you would like," Dombrowski said with a laugh on 97.1 The Ticket. "But really, I've also learned throughout the years that any free agent negotiations are best kept between the club and the player while you're doing those type of things. I have learned that throughout the years there's nothing to be gained, and any type of negotiations we'd have with David would be kept private."
Dombrowski said the team broke its silence on the status on its quest to re-sign another Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, who departed in free agency, only because negotiations had ended.
"It was over with at that time," Dombrowski said. "It was not ongoing anymore, and I think that people would have kept asking those questions at the time. In fact, I know they would have kept asking the questions as time went on. I think at that point we knew that it had become final, so we figured at that point we had done all the negotiations quietly behind the scenes, and when it was over, the questions were abundant and we didn't want them to be a distraction, so we just went ahead and we made that announcement at the time."
Dombrowski said he expects the starting rotation to be good this season, with Price effectively replacing Scherzer. What concerns most fans much more than the altered rotation, however, is the relief staff, which remains largely the same.
The general manager believes having Bruce Rondon and Joakim Soria all season will make a noticeable difference for the bullpen, which was among the worst in baseball last season. Rondon missed the entire season following Tommy John surgery, while Soria joined the team midseason and suffered an injury that limited him to 13 appearances for his new club.
"Joakim Soria will be with us all year long, and he is a very good pitcher," Dombrowski said. "People didn't really have a chance to see him on a consistent basis and how good he can be, and then we think Bruce Rondon will be ready if it's not right at the season, right behind that.
"We like Tom Gorzelanny as a left-handed pitcher," Dombrowski continued. "We think he's going to do a good job for us. He knows how to pitch, he can get lefties and righties out, and then in addition to that we have some young arms that are coming right behind us, when you start looking at people like Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan, and we are open-minded to that. I think that these guys can do it."
Dombrowski also expressed cautious optimism about Ian Krol, who faded down the stretch last season but looked stellar in his spring training debut Wednesday.
"He threw absolutely great yesterday," Dombrowski said. "I don't think you could throw much better your first time out ... If he throws like that all the time, he's going to be a very impressive number one type of lefty out of the bullpen. He was up to 97 yesterday with a good curveball and he has added a cutter, but we're in the beginning of spring and don't want to jump to conclusions.
"But I do think that Ian can be a very solid pitcher for us," Dombrowski added. "When we acquired him, we acquired him not only with last year in mind but going into the future. He's a young guy with a great arm and good stuff, so he's in a situation where we think he has the potential to be a number one left-handed reliever."
Offensively, the Tigers could be the most potent team in baseball thanks to the presence of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. The first couple of spots in the order, however, are yet to be determined. Dombrowski said he believes there are a number of good options, and he listed second baseman Ian Kinsler, center fielders Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis and shortstop Jose Iglesias as players who could fill the second spot.
"Anybody at the top of your order is a very important spot," Dombrowski said. "Ian Kinsler will hit one or two, I'm not sure which one he'll hit. That is a question for [manager] Brad [Ausmus] to handle. He really makes out the lineup, but I think whomever hits for us there will do a solid job. We have some good offensive production. We don't even talk about [third baseman Nick] Castellanos, who I think is going to continue to grow. Our center field situation between Gose, who's been very impressive so far, and of course Rajai, they have the potential to hit up there. Iglesias at shortstop, he has the potential to hit up there, handle the bat and run. I think we'll be fine whatever direction he tends to go. I think he's looking at different options, and he'll make that decision as spring training progresses."
With the Tigers coming off a fourth straight American League Central Division title and the team they beat out, the Kansas City Royals, coming off a trip to the World Series, the division has been heralded as one of the toughest in the game. Dombrowski is not concerned about how the Tigers will fare.
"In some ways, if they're looking past us, they're underestimating us, which will be fine, but we have a chance to have a very good club," Dombrowski said. "And we do have an improved division, it's a very good one, a lot of good teams in the division, but we'll hold our own."
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