Jul 3, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Tigers second baseman Omar Infante (4) is injured in the fourth inning Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) breaks up a double play sliding into second base at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Omar Infante Leaves Rehab Early, Detroit Tigers Left With Few Options

I didn’t really think too much of it when Omar Infante was lifted in the fifth inning from his rehab game in West Michigan on Thursday night. He was scheduled to resume rehabbing in Toledo the next day, and I figured he was just trying to get through the evening quickly.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Reports surfaced following the game that Infante shut it down after feeling pain in his injured ankle. Here’s Peter Wallner of the Grand Rapids Press with the story:

When asked how the ankle felt after the game, Infante said, “real bad. Now when I’m walking I feel pain.”

As for an extended stay on the disabled list, Infante replied, “Maybe. We’ll see tomorrow … I think I come (back) too soon. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

This is, to say the least, really bad news for a Detroit Tigers club with limited alternatives at the second base position. The team has employed a combination of Ramon Santiago and Hernan Perez to fill the void left by Infante, but the pair has only hit .206/.227/.302 in 64 plate appearances since the injury.

Unfortunately there are few internal alternatives. Of the middle infield-type players in AAA and AA right now, a group that includes Danny Worth, Argenis Diaz, Gustavo Nunez, Brandon Douglass, and Eugenio Suarez, only Suarez has an OPS above .680. Santiago and Perez aren’t going to hit very much, but there isn’t an internal option that would be a sure fire bet to out-hit them. Maybe Danny Worth would, but maybe also Danny Worth wouldn’t.

With the trade deadline looming and an eventual return date for Infante unknown (not to mention the Biogenesis situation hanging over Peralta’s head) it will be interesting to see if Dave Dombrowski makes a move for a good-enough middle infielder who could help solidify the situation somewhat. Not necessarily either of these exact players, but someone like Nick Punto or Jamey Carroll.

Sticking with the Santiago/Perez quasi-platoon isn’t a whole lot worse than going the acquisision route (though I’d recommend more Perez and less Santiago to get a better idea of Perez’s acumen in the big leagues), but it’s far from a guarantee that either player could scrape together a .600 OPS.

Infante’s injury still sounds like one that will get better far before the team really needs it to, but just how long he’ll remain out of action remains to be seen. One thing looks to be a certainty however, and that’s as long as Infante isn’t playing, the Tigers are going to struggle to get any sort of offensive production out of the second base position.

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  • John Verburg

    They have to just turn Perez loose. His numbers in AA were good enough to give it a shot. His skills are very Infante-like. Aggressive swinger, can run a bit, not a ton of pop, and can defend pretty well. He needs time to adjust to the speed of the game, and he is better off getting consistent at-bats. He hits righties just as well as lefties, so I don’t know why he can’t get starts against both.

    • http://tomaroonandgold.blogspot.com Matt Snyder

      I think that playing Hernan everyday is the prudent course of action, but I don’t think it’s a given that he could hit .220/.250/.300 in MLB right now.

  • Tim OConnor

    I agree that playing Perez the bulk of the time makes the most sense. He’s at the very least a solid defender, although that is based strictly off of reading reports, as I haven’t either Cable or the Internet at home for the last 2-3 years. (Yeah, things got TOUGH, what with my last two jobs getting offshored to India.)

    Anyway, here’s hoping that Infante returns soon, and picks up right where he left off. I wouldn’t mind resigning him to a two year deal, to buy time while some of the kids mature a bit.

  • chrisHannum

    Seems like people are giving Perez too much credit, it isn’t just that he hasn’t hit especially well in his cup of coffee stint in Detroit this year. He’s not a top-100 prospect, he has a career minor league OPS of .640 and his breakthrough in Erie this year is all BABIP. I like that he seems to be improving as a minor leaguer (especially when it comes to defense), but that’s no reason to expect him to be a real contributor in Detroit this year or even next year. Just to cross your fingers and hope that he continues to develop. The only compelling reasons to give him big league playing time this year are Danny Worth’s foot and the hope that something from Miguel Cabrera will rub off on him (when it comes to approach at the plate).

    • http://tomaroonandgold.blogspot.com Matt Snyder

      It was a lot of BABIP, yes — though a bit of ISO as well (some of that is the home park) — but a .330 BABIP isn’t so crazy high. We don’t know how much (if any) of that is actual bat-to-ball improvement, but it’s within the “skill” range for a hitter.

      But I agree with your overall sentiment.

      • chrisHannum

        My concern isn’t that a .330 BABIP is ridiculous, just that it’s significantly higher than what he was able to achieve in A-ball and that it’s the big reason he was hitting .300 and not .250. It’s real hard to stick up for Ramon Santiago right now, though it’s hard to see why he’s sitting with a 25.7% line drive rate and only a .211 BABIP. He’s also swinging at more pitches in the zone and fewer out of the zone, but the results have obviously been awful.

    • John Verburg

      He doesn’t have to be a real contributor on the offensive end in my opinion. But he has already made some defensive plays even Infante doesn’t make, as well as an error. Like any young player there are going to be ups and downs. I think if we don’t expect too much from him, he will be fine. He has good hand eye coordination at the plate, but is just far too aggressive. That being said, a healthy Omar Infante is more ideal, but I will take my chances with Perez over Ramon Santiago right now.

    • MichMike

      He improves our worst in MLB infield defense and can run some. Infante has played pretty well, specifically in comparison to our no D, no O second basemen prior to his return.

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