DETROIT -- Nick Castellanos could well end up using his September stint with the Tigers as a springboard that propels him into the big leagues next Opening Day. That's what his manager is hoping.
Cracking the roster for this postseason, however, probably isn't going to happen. Jim Leyland isn't saying much about his roster decisions yet, especially given his hesitation to say anything related to the playoffs until they clinch a spot, but he's preparing people for that decision.
"I think the best way to put it with him right now is to get his feet wet a little bit, give him a shot once in a while," Leyland said. "I would say that he'd come into Spring Training next year with an opportunity to make this club. I'm assuming he'll get an opportunity to make the team next spring."
As for the postseason, Leyland said, "Off the top of my head, without etching anything in stone, I would say if we get in, I think that would be unlikely that he would be on the roster."
Off the top of his head, Leyland isn't expecting many surprises at all when the time comes to make out a 25-man playoff roster. He isn't expecting many tough decisions either.
"When it comes down the roster, personally, I'll just leave it at this: I think it'll be a no-brainer," Leyland said.
When Castellanos picked up some starts last week, there was some intrigue about that. With Detroit struggling against left-handed starters and the Tigers trying to find some momentum on the road, the top prospect made three starts in a five-day stretch. Matt Tuiasosopo, meanwhile, went 12 days without a start despite more than a few games against lefties; his only playing time from Sept. 4-13 was a pair of late-inning appearances replacing Prince Fielder at first base in games long since decided.
While Leyland got a look at Castellanos against big league pitching, Tuiasosopo worked with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Now, the balance has reversed. Tuiasosopo, 4-for-11 off White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale entering Saturday, made his fourth start of the week.
As for Castellanos, Leyland said, "Right now, you kind of just pick your spots. He's not going to play much right now, to be honest with you."
Depending on how soon the Tigers clinch their third straight division title, Leyland left open the opportunity for Castellanos to make some starts over next week's road trip to give some starters a break. That could give him a chance to make a start or two in his native South Florida when the Tigers close the regular season against the Marlins in Miami.
What builds from there is a question that's probably going to have to wait until next year.
Rondon, Coke injuries may affect bullpen makeup
DETROIT -- While Bruce Rondon spent Saturday playing catch to keep his arm fresh for a scheduled mound session Sunday morning, Phil Coke spent one more day resting his ailing arm in hopes of being able to throw pain-free on Sunday.
What happens with both of those relievers could play a major factor in how Tigers manager Jim Leyland fills out his bullpen for the postseason roster.
Rondon hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 2 in Boston, when he felt some tenderness in his throwing elbow following a 103-mph fastball. He has thrown a few times this week, but Sunday's session is expected to be at his regular strength.
"Hopefully, if everything goes well, he'll be able to pitch on Tuesday," Leyland said.
If it doesn't, they'll have some decisions to make. A slow recovery isn't necessarily a sign of something more serious. Leyland downplayed that possibility, though he said he's optimistic about it.
"I know this: It's not a scare," Leyland cautioned, "because the medical people have been real calm about it. He's been checked out. This is no red flag."
Whether the flexor mass soreness for Coke is a sign of something remains to be seen. He had one more day of rest and medication Saturday in anticipation of a throwing session Sunday morning.
"If everything's fine tomorrow, he should be good to go, I would think," Leyland said.
How much of a role the injury played in Coke's struggles is another question. Leyland has spent the past several weeks trying to get him going in time for the stretch run and potential matchups with lefties, to the point that Coke faced fewer than three batters in six of his last nine outings. In both of his outings this week, however, he ended up being lifted with the bases loaded.
If Coke is healthy, he's expected to have a spot in the Tigers bullpen as a second lefty behind Drew Smyly. If Rondon is healthy and can get enough work next week, he seems poised to grab a potentially big middle-relief role behind setup man Jose Veras and closer Joaquin Benoit. If Rondon or Coke aren't ready, the Tigers likely have some shuffling to do, which could affect everyone from lefty Jose Alvarez to strikeout specialist Al Alburquerque to maybe Luke Putkonen.
Iglesias reports progress, remains day to day
DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias reported some progress in his bruised left hand Saturday. It isn't much, mainly being able to move the hand, but it's more than what he was able to do Friday, a day after taking a 95-mph fastball off of it Thursday afternoon.
Iglesias remains listed as day to day, though it would seem unlikely at this rate that the day for him to return would be Sunday. Manager Jim Leyland said Saturday that Iglesias hopefully could be used as a pinch-runner.
Ramon Santiago made his second consecutive start at shortstop Saturday against the White Sox. His leaping grab up the middle Friday night to rob Adam Dunn of a hit showed he can more than hold his own at the spot defensively.
Peralta learning left field in instructional league
DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta has started working out with the Tigers' instructional league team in Florida in anticipation of his return from suspension next weekend, taking fly balls in left field.
Instructional league workouts began on Thursday. Once games begin Monday, Peralta is expected to see his first live pitching since accepting a 50-game suspension last month for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.
"He's doing fine. He's doing everything that he's supposed to be doing, getting some work," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's probably not a Gold Glover just yet, but he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and I think that's the best way to look at it.
"People sometimes read into it more than there is. It's a potential option. That's what this is. We have no idea how this is going to play out."
Peralta is eligible to join the active roster next Friday for the three-game series against the Marlins to end the regular season. Leyland said earlier this week that he anticipates Peralta being brought back for that, though he has left the postseason roster question open.
That said, Leyland repeated his phrase that he anticipates decisions on a potential playoff roster to be a "no-brainer."