Tomorrow opening day will be upon us, for today we get the Tigers annual last tune-up against the Mud Hens. This is actually a game I find pretty interesting. For one thing, you rarely see how a AAA team stacks up against a major league team and for another some of the AAA players are usually guys who fought for big league roster spots and lost.
It would have been fascinating to see the Tigers lineup face off against (for example) Andrew Oliver – but that’s not what we got, we got Fu-Te Ni. I wrote a post a few months past (“The Forgotten Fu-Te Ni“) covering his 2011, his offseason and guessing at the Tigers long run plans for the guy. It was my guess that, after being converted to a starter in 2011, he would be part of the 5th starter derby in spring training this year. But… Ni was sent straight to minor league camp without so much as a look. I don’t know why that was the case… but it gives one the impression that he’s been simply forgotten. After all, Thad Weber got some innings in big league exhibition games…
One point I made in that post was that Ni really shouldn’t be a starter, because he has never really shown the ability to get right-handers out – but I felt that he should be able to fill in capably in a big-league relief role should the Tigers lose Coke or Schlereth. He did have a terrible year in 2010, but he has otherwise been a pretty effective LOOGY-type reliever at all levels. But… we’re talking about his chances to impress against the Tigers big-league lineup today and those chances never looked good. Too many righties with too much power. Give Ni a shot to retire Fielder alone with the bases loaded? You might wind up thinking positive things about Mr. Fu-Te Ni.
But as a starter? What happened was no big surprise: he recorded only 8 outs and gave up 9 hits (including 4 doubles and a triple). After that, an assortment of relievers gave up lots of baserunners but only two runs. Porcello’s start wasn’t great, but likely West Michigan starter Wilsen Palacios shut down the Hens for 4 1/3 innings of relief and the game was won.
The result, obviously, is important only for those trying hard to impress Jim Leyland… which should include just about everybody on the Mud Hens roster, as well as the occasional Tigers reserve or low-minors ringer. Probably the only guy who actually managed that (other than the aformentioned Palacios) would be Mud Hens leadoff man Quintin Berry who went 3-5. For anybody else, what might be of interest is Leylands “Anti-Lefty” lineup (which, of course, clobbered poor Fu-Te Ni). We see the standard 1 through 5 (which aren’t likely to change depending on who is on the mound) of Jackson, Boesch, Cabrera, Fielder and Young. Then we get Raburn batting 6th (instead of Avila) and Peralta batting 7th. Avila hits 8th (though I would presume that many of those starts against lefties later in the year would go to Laird) and Santiago (as a fill-in for Brandon Inge, like it or not) batting 9th.
And lest I forget… Raburn was in the game and not playing second, but Delmon Young was not the DH. For all of you who like the Santiago-at-second and Raburn-in-left idea – I must remind you that Jim Leyland doesn’t seem to care for it at all. Raburn was the DH while Young ‘fielded’ a position. In game two, we’ve already heard that Andy Dirks will be in the lineup – as the DH. Young will not be the DH. This is a little hard to stomach, but I do think that it’s representative of what we’re going to see all season long (aside from DH days for guys with aches and pains) and it’s all part and parcel of Jim Leyland’s managing style. You could define that pretty easily as “stupid tactical decisions made in order to keep players happy and comfortable in their roles”. At least it’s not as though he makes this stupid tactical decisions for nothing, right?