Tigers On Unbelievable Hot Streak!
By Chris Hannum
Tigers win again! 1-0 over the Toronto Blue Jays to start the exhibition season 3-0! Another exhibition shutout means that Lester Oliveros (and honestly, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Oliveros) remains the only Tigers pitcher to allow a run.
Continuing the rotation at second, Will Rhymes got the start today and led off with Jackson getting some R&R. He didn’t do a whole heck of a lot at the plate, but then most of his teammates didn’t either. After all, they only scored one run. The only Tiger who did make a little noise was Andy Dirks, probably fighting to enter rather than remain in the Tigers outfield picture. Dirks had 2 singles in 3 plate appearances and scored the team’s only run on a sacrifice by Victor Martinez.
To be frank, I am really pulling for Andy Dirks – though like everyone else I figure he’ll probably start the season in Toledo. As a replacement for any of the Tigers’ presumed outfield starters (Ordonez, Jackson or Raburn) should one spend time on the DL, I would prefer to see Casper Wells. As a 4th outfielder and bat off the bench, I want a lefty first and foremost. I also want that guy to play better defense than Ordonez, in case we’d like to hold on to a one-run lead in the eighth, and to be able to play acceptable center if Jackson needs a day off – or if he’s facing a particularly tough righty. Brennan Boesch doesn’t do what needs to be done in the field. Don Kelly does, but he doesn’t do what needs to be done at the plate. He’s also thirty-one and no prospect. What’s worse – the Tigers 4th outfielder is almost certain to fill the lineup slot of whoever got the day off. We all know what that means: Maggs sits, and Kelly hits third. With his career major-league OPS of .632. There is no guarantee that Dirks will perform better as a major-leaguer than Kelly has – but Kelly’s actual performance isn’t Dirks’ ceiling it’s his floor. Dirks played himself out of prospect status by hitting for no power at all at age 23 in Erie. Last year, it came back with 48 extra-base hits and a .466 slugging percentage, a mark Don Kelly never matched in 9 seasons in the minors. They are otherwise pretty similar players.
All Tigers’ pitchers contributed to the effort, not a big surprise since we didn’t see a lot of guys like Below today who are locks to start the season in the minors. Penny, Scherzer, Zumaya, Benoit, Valverde, Fu-Te Ni and Brayan Villareal all threw at least an inning of scoreless ball, allowing a grand total of 6 baserunners in nine innings with two double plays and without a single extra-base hit. We can live with pitching like that, right? This is, of course, a meaningless exhibition game but still it’s nice to see that Tigers’ pitchers are throwing strikes. Fu-Te Ni‘s dominating eighth is particularly heartening. Ni was pretty good as a lefty specialist before his implosion last year and whether or not he ultimately goes north with the team the bullpen looks a lot less shaky if he is a viable option should Thomas or (particularly) Schlereth falter.