With two split squad games this afternoon for the Tigers, there has been a lot of baseball action – and many if not most of the players involved in ongoing battles for roster spots had a chance to aid their causes. Brandon Inge, one such player, put up his third consecutive 0-3 performance to lower his average from .184 to .171.
I’m not going to go into any details surrounding the Inge-Worth controversy or roster battle, except to say this: if Inge would just sprinkle in the occasional hit I don’t think there would be a roster battle. As of 3 days ago, when Inge was batting a ‘healthy’ .240, I don’t think there was a roster battle. According to Tom Gage of the Detroit News, Jim Leyland recently described only three decisions left to make and said that he was ready to finalize the position player list already but had no incentive to do so so early. For better or worse, Inge would have been given the ‘traditional’ 40 games to prove that he can still hit better than he showed in the first four months of 2011. But… Leyland has been trying to get Inge as many at-bats as possible and the more at-bats he gets and fails to perform in the more even Leyland will have to doubt that Inge has anything left in the tank at all.
Clete Thomas, battling Andy Dirks and conceivably non-roster invitees like Quintin Berry for the last outfield spot, didn’t do much to make his case either with an 0-3 of his own. With yet another strikeout Thomas now has 14 in 43 at-bats. There is a difference, though, between Thomas and Inge: Thomas is, all around, doing what one would have expected of him during the regular season should he make the final 25 – a lot of strikeouts, a lowish average (currently .233) and a little power and a good glove to compensate. Thomas just isn’t doing more than expected and he isn’t overachieving like his competitors in that race. Nonetheless, Thomas’ chief advantage – that he would be lost to the organization if not kept on the 25 – might be enough for him to make the team so long as he does not do too much to discredit himself. The same would apply to Inge – but Inge is discrediting himself.
As for the other guys in those races: Andy Dirks went hitless (lowering his average to .371) but did contribute a walk and a run in the half-Tigers half-victory against the half-Phillies. Batting in the 9-hole against the Yankees, Danny Worth got on base twice and scored a run. If Quintin Berry is actually in the running at all (which I doubt) he didn’t help himself a bit with an 0-4.