NOAH TRISTER,AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Dave Dombrowski realizes the offseason is never over until opening day.
That was certainly the case last year, when the Detroit general manager brought slugger Prince Fielder to the Tigers in late January.
This offseason has been quieter in Detroit, but Dombrowski keeps his ears open for possible acquisitions even now, with spring training set to start in a couple of weeks.
“It doesn’t change all year long, really. It’s one of those things — even when you’re away at the holidays, you have a pulse of what’s taking place,” Dombrowski said. “There’s still some players that haven’t signed with clubs, and any time there’s a move, there’s sometimes an extra reaction to that, a chain reaction.”
The Tigers were part of that scenario last year when they learned in mid-January that designated hitter Victor Martinez had a knee injury that would eventually cause him to miss the whole 2012 season. Detroit responded by signing Fielder to a $214 million, nine-year contract. He was introduced at Comerica Park last Jan. 26.
The biggest move the Tigers made this offseason was re-signing one of their own players. They brought right-hander Anibal Sanchez back with a long-term contract. Sanchez’s return gives Detroit six potential starting pitchers, but so far none of them has been traded.
Right-hander Rick Porcello and left-hander Drew Smyly are expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation if they’re both still with the organization when spring training starts.
The Tigers didn’t acquire a clear-cut replacement for closer Jose Valverde, who was let go after last season. Bruce Rondon could fill that role after a stellar year in the minors, but he’s unproven.
Although Rondon could be a major part of Detroit’s bid for a third straight AL Central title, the Tigers can be patient with Nick Castellanos, a 20-year-old outfielder who hit .320 in 134 games at Class A and Double-A last season.
Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry — all left-handed hitters — are expected to compete for the left field spot, but Castellanos and Avisail Garcia swing from the right side and will have a chance to earn playing time.
“We’re looking for a right-handed complement,” Dombrowski said. “Garcia and Castellanos I think both fall under the same category. They’ll come to spring training with an opportunity to make the club, but we’re also in a position where if they’re going to make the club, they’re going to have to play a lot. So we’re not going to give them 40 games and a limited number of at-bats.”
Dombrowski spoke briefly with The Associated Press on Monday after appearing as part of a panel discussion at the annual meeting for the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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