Along with the cancellation of game 2 today, out came the news that Magglio Ordonez is done for the season after re-breaking the same ankle that he did last year. The canceling of the game might actually help the Tigers for two reasons. First, it will give starting pitcher Max Scherzer another day of rest after pitching in relief against the Yankees on the Thursday night. Second, it gives the Tigers a little more time to mull over their options as they look to replace Magglio.
The question then becomes, who is it going to be? The answer might just come in the form of Clete Thomas.
Going through the list of options on the Tigers 40 man roster, the one guy with some major league experience that stands out is Thomas. The immediate drawback to putting Thomas on the playoff roster is that his season has been done since early September and he hasn’t seen any time in the big leagues in 2011. He is also left handed, and with the Rangers starting 3 lefties against the Tigers, Thomas realistically isn’t going to contribute with the bat and come in and start.
Still the quality options are limited, and I have Thomas as the leader going into the clubhouse on this one.
One option the Tigers have is placing Delmon Young back on the roster and hoping he heals quickly, though I don’t think that is the answer. How good can he possibly be with an oblique injury that isn’t healed properly? It would only bother every swing of the bat that Young takes.
Also on the 40 man roster sits Ryan Strieby, who is a right handed hitter, but he like Thomas hasn’t played since early September. Strieby is also limited by his defense in the outfield as it’s atrocious, but heck, who isn’t in that Detroit outfield not named Austin Jackson? Strieby does have a powerful bat, but the likelihood he makes his big league debut in the ALCS is really really tiny.
Carlos Guillen? Any idea that places the gimpy Guillen in the outfield is a recipe for disaster. Plus, I am not sure we can’t get more offense from the guys we already have on our bench, and we certainly could get better defense.
Process of elimination leaves Clete Thomas. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Thomas, as he has spent some time with the Tigers in the two previous seasons. He has even had some good games and some clutch hits, but what Thomas would really provide is a 2nd defender out in the outfield in the late innings that Jim Leyland can count on. That can’t be pushed aside, and it would actually provide a value that others on the team can’t provide.
I like Thomas as a player…….well at least as a reserve. He puts it all out there on the field. He runs well, throws well, and is pretty good with his glove. His main issue is with his bat. He strikes out a ton. In fact, he might even give Austin Jackson a run for his money in that department. In Toledo this season Thomas struck out in roughly 35% of his at-bats while hitting .251. Thomas did steal 20 of 23 bases and had 12 homers in 367 at-bats, missing some time this season with injury. In 391 career at-bats with the Tigers, Thomas has hit .253 with 8 homers and 48 RBI.
With all the left-handed pitchers the Rangers are going to throw at the Tigers, they do have the option of just playing Andy Dirks in RF, and letting him hit against the lefties. In a small sample, Dirks does have 10 hits in 31 at-bats against lefties this season and hangs in well against them. Clete Thomas’ career batting average is also better against left-handed pitchers as well.
Using the current roster and thinking outside the box a little bit, there is yet another option. Brandon Inge has played some LF before, and played it rather well at the time. If getting right-handed hitters into the lineup is a priority to the Tigers (not sure it is), you could use Inge in LF, Raburn in RF, and the switch-hitting Wilson Betemit at 3rd base. Match-ups aren’t everything though, because you would be making room for a couple of bats that haven’t been that good anyway. I would rather roll the dice with Andy Dirks getting the nod.
No matter what the Tigers do lineup wise, the roster move that makes the most sense is to call up Thomas and put him on the roster. He can contribute defensively and could pinch run in the late innings as well. It may not be a lot, but it is something. The other options on the 40 man roster just don’t make sense.