Brennan Boesch has an Edge in Roster Competition
By John Parent
Detroit Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch took full advantage of a late spring start in left field last night. Boesch collected three hits on the night and raised his spring average to .306.
Boesch is in competition with Casper Wells and Andy Dirks for a reserve role with the Tigers this season, but given his strong camp and his first half performance last season, it looks like Boesch has all but wrapped up a spot on the 2011 squad.
There figures to be the final round of roster cuts coming on Saturday morning, which would precede the final home tilt for the Tigers in Lakeland. Now that Magglio Ordonez has returned to the lineup after sitting out with a sore hamstring (and stroked a long double in the process), any notion of carrying an extra player goes out the window. Ordonez says he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
Talk of a Ramon Santiago trade has cooled lately, though something along those lines could easily still be in the works. If Santiago is still a Tiger by this time tomorrow, there will be only two spots left for position players. Infielder Danny Worth remains a possibility for one of them, and given Jhonny Peralta‘s defensive shortcomings, it would make sense for the Tigers to look at keeping Worth.
Boesch provides a home run threat off the bench and would be the first guy that Jim Leyland would turn to in the event of an injury to a starting outfielder. The only real question is whether or not the club feels Boesch would be better suited to get everyday at bats in Triple-A until a need for a regular player arises in Detroit.
Given his experience last season, however, my money is on Boesch making the club. Chris made the case for Dirks last night, but Dirks is not on the 40-man roster, which means a move would have to be made to add him. It could happen, but it makes his odds of making the club just a bit longer.
Then you are down to one spot for three guys. Worth provides slick defense at three infield positions while both Dirks and Wells can handle all three outfield roles. The importance of a back-up centerfielder becomes mitigated a bit by the presence of Don Kelly on the roster, and Ryan Raburn can play center in a pinch if needed as well. You almost have to look at this as two competitions for two spots. Boesch versus Dirks as a left handed reserve outfielder and Wells versus Worth as a right handed hitter off the bench. I don’t think they’d take both Boesch and Dirks north with the club as there is little reason to carry two players who do the same things in the same general fashion. Expect to see Dirks re-assigned to minor league camp come Saturday, but this certainly won’t be the last time he’s seen in a Tiger uniform this year.
With Wells and Worth, it’s a question of positional need. Wells provides a better stick, but Worth’s infield value could give him an edge if Leyland wants to go that route. It could also hinge on the idea of having Kelly as the back-up centerfielder versus having Wells out there when Austin Jackson needs a break. I don’t have a real strong feeling on this one, but I’ll lean to Worth as the favorite here.
One things is certain, no matter how the Opening Day roster shakes out, we will see roster moves happen early in the season. Some guys that have initially made the club will be in Toledo before very long and some of the players who start the year there will be in Motown to replace them.
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