DETROIT -- The Tigers used this year's Draft to add advanced pitching, and it turns out they will get some immediate help as the team agreed to terms with two top selections in the First-Year Player Draft.
Detroit's second-round pick, left-hander Kevin Ziomek from Vanderbilt, and fourth-round selection, right-hander Austin Kubitza from Rice University, agreed to terms Friday. The Tigers have now signed nine of their first 11 picks from this year's Draft.
Both Ziomek ($956,600) and Kubitza ($401,200) signed at slot value.
Ziomek led the Commodores with a 2.12 ERA in 17 starts while striking out 115 in 119 innings and holding opposing hitters to a .188 average. He made an impression last year with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, striking out 36 batters over 28 1/3 innings in five starts, and is expected to start his pro career at short-season Class A Connecticut of the New York-Penn League.
Kubitza increased his Draft stock after being selected in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft by the Pirates, and choosing not to sign. He struck out 134 batters in 109 1/3 innings, including eight in seven innings against North Carolina State in the NCAA Super Regional on June 8.
"We certainly think of him as a starter," said David Chadd, the Tigers' vice president of amateur scouting. "He's got a live fastball that has a lot of sink. He's got a slider that's certainly an out pitch. I think he does have a feel for a changeup, and again, he's another guy in this year's Draft that had unbelievable numbers, especially strikeout numbers. When you're evaluating college pitchers, one thing that jumps out at you is their ability to strike out college hitters."
Dombrowski will wait and see on bullpen mix
DETROIT -- The question posed to Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was a potential snafu: Does he think his bullpen is good enough?
Dombrowski answered it about as well as could at this point.
"We'll find out," he said.
With Jose Valverde designated for assignment, potentially heading to Triple-A Toledo to work out his issues if he accepts an outright move, and Joaquin Benoit at the head of a closer-by-committee, the Tigers have just under six weeks to figure out what works and what they need with their relief mix before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Part of that will be Benoit as Plan A at closer. Part, too, will be the just-recalled Al Alburquerque in the eighth inning, and Drew Smyly likely in the seventh. The Tigers could go into the final week of July with any number of relief parts they could use, or they might actually go into August liking what they have.
Until then, Dombrowski is keeping his outlooks short-term.
"We're comfortable with this group right now," Dombrowski said. "I can't speak for August. I'm not a fortune-teller. As it is, we're comfortable with this group as we stand now. But you never know what happens with anything.
"I never know what happens with any position on this team. That's why I watch us play day in and day out. But we like this group. We think it has a chance to win for us."
Dombrowski rarely announces positions of need in the middle of the season. He will not discuss potential closing options on the trade market, but his observation on the state of bullpens around baseball might well make a point: Acquiring a closer isn't as easy these days as scanning the rosters and finding a team in selling mode.
The fact that the other team at Comerica Park this weekend, the American League East-leading Red Sox, changed closers Friday from Andrew Bailey to Koji Uehara, reinforce that even other teams with World Series aspirations are still sorting out their ninth innings, often with multiple relievers.
"I understand the bullpen questions, because we've all been living through it," Dombrowski said. "However, you live in a vacuum with your own club. If you look out there right now, there are not a lot of shutdown, lockdown closers out there anywhere. There's very few of them, and a lot of people have struggled with the back end of their bullpens. So it's a situation where if you sometimes mix and match, it can work for you. We think we have guys with the ability to do so."
Alburquerque could be the most critical among them, even more so than Benoit. The Tigers have struggled for right-handed relief depth since late April, when Octavio Dotel went on the disabled list and Alburquerque lost command and ended up in Toledo. Thursday's eighth inning showed that void perhaps as well as any game this year, with Phil Coke left to face switch-hitter Shane Victorino and the right-handed-hitting Dustin Pedroia.
They're not sure Alburquerque's command is back, but they have to find out.
"His slider's been very good," Dombrowski said. "His fastball has been thrown with more consistency. I don't think he's going to be pinpoint. That's not how he was even when he was effective. He feels good about himself. He feels like he's ready to come back here and help us."
Intercostal strain lands Tuiasosopo on disabled list
DETROIT -- Matt Tuiasosopo was poised to become a bigger member of the Tigers' starting lineup, earning more playing time against right-handed pitchers in addition to the lefties he has been pummeling all year. Instead, with a bad swing in the batting cage, he became the latest casualty in the club's outfield.
What was hoped to be a minor rib cage strain that scratched Tuiasosopo from Thursday's starting lineup instead landed him on the 15-day disabled list Friday. Avisail Garcia, just optioned to Toledo on Wednesday, was recalled to take his place.
The injury is officially listed as an intercostal strain, the same issue that sidelined fellow outfielder Andy Dirks for a good chunk of Spring Training.
The DL move came on the night when the Tigers faced Jon Lester, one of the toughest left-handed starters in the league.
Garcia, who started in center field Friday for Austin Jackson, will take Tuiasosopo's role as a left fielder against lefties on most nights. Manager Jim Leyland said he could also end up getting starts against right-handers, much like he was pondering with Tuiasosopo. Garcia started against several righties in center while filling in for Jackson earlier this month.
Jackson held out of lineup with left leg soreness
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson had seven straight days of healthy, productive play since his return from the disabled list a week ago. His absence from Friday's starting lineup against the Red Sox was a reminder that the pulled left hamstring that sidelined him for a month remains a concern.
Manager Jim Leyland said he held out Jackson with soreness in his left leg. Jackson said it was in the same area where he pulled his hamstring in May.
"Same spot," Jackson said. "We just want to be cautious with it and not push it."
Jackson said the soreness didn't become an issue until Thursday. He was set to spend Friday getting treatment on it with the hope of returning to the lineup Saturday.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.