The Tigers played a couple of games yesterday, a split-squad win over the Astros that Jayrc has already covered & a split-squad 7-4 loss to Toronto. In a game against the mighty Phillies (or at least, half of the mighty Phillies) Detroit rallied for a 2-1 victory. All in all, we’re doing pretty well this exhibition season – the Tigers are 7-4 with the second best run differential in the grapefruit league. That’s not to say there aren’t causes for concern.
Will Rhymes had another subpar outing at the plate, bringing his spring training tally to 3-17 – with no walks and no extra-base hits, what’s worse. Is Rhymes playing himself out of contention for the second base opening? Of course not. His .176 batting average sparkles compared to Scott Sizemore‘s 2-14 .143 average. At least Sizemore has produced 1 double and 1 walk, so there is no clear front-runner here. And it still seems that the job will have to go to one of these two. Come on Carlos, get well soon!
Miguel Cabrera is also struggling at the plate since his return to camp. This is a very small sample, and these are just exhibition games, but if off-field issues are affecting Cabrera’s concentration that could easily lead to a cold start to the season and a big regression relative to his near-MVP season. We saw this with Ordonez in 2009, though his issues had nothing to do with substance abuse or the law. We would all very much like some reassurance that this won’t be an issue for Miggy, and we haven’t seen anything to that effect yet.
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The nice thing is, that’s about the limit of the real causes for concern. Pitching overall has been quite good, with a team ERA under 3.00 – and most of those runs allowed have been by a handful of pitchers that (like Below, Villarreal & Alburquerque) who have little shot at actually making the team. Of those guys we’re actually counting on to pitch in real games in April, there isn’t anyone who has had exceptional trouble finding the strike zone, etc…
While Rhymes & Sizemore have spend these 2 weeks saying “You First” “No, You First” with their bats all of our outfield candidates have been playing well, with no clear leaders based on exhibition numbers alone. What’s more, they are all getting starts. I’m inclined to look for extra significance in managerial decisions in exhibition games, like the fact that Jacob Turner started a game on Saturday while Andy Oliver came in in relief. Maybe the first guy to get the call this summer would be Turner, not Oliver, or maybe Oliver is thought of as a better bet in the ‘pen. So the fact that Kelly, Thomas, Dirks, Wells & Boesch (not to mention the incumbent Raburn) are all getting starts suggests to me that they are all still in the running. Kelly is getting starts at third (though he came in late today and sc), and hitting at an un-Kelly-like .357 clip. Clete Thomas got the start in right today, but an 0-4 outing dragged his average down to .278 and his OPS down to .633. Of course, before that one game Thomas was in good shape… Andy Dirks also got a start today, in left field, and made the most of i – raising his average to a team-leading .474. Casper Wells got the day off on Sunday, but he’s doing his part to keep up with Dirks – with an OBP of .500 and a slugging percentage of .692. Good thing Ryan Raburn is having a solid spring, it looks like he may need it.
Also worth a mention: Tigers 1997 first pick Matt Anderson is in camp with the Philadelphia Phillies this spring. I had heard months ago that he had accepted an invite to Tigers’ camp in his comeback attempt, but apparently nothing came of it. I haven’t heard wonderful things about the Phillies rotation depth, so maybe they offer Anderson as good a chance as any to stick with a major-league club (or at least play his way into a May callup). It was Anderson that came in to pitch the 9th against the Tigers today, giving up hits to lefties Don Kelly and Andy Dirks and ultimately allowing lefty Scott Thorman to plate Kelly for the win. Massive left-right splits were a big part of Anderson’s inability to fulfill that massive potential as a Tiger from 1998-2003, lets hope (for his sake) that the Phillies are in the market for a ROOGY.