On Boesch’s Big Day
By John Parent
The Tigers escaped from New York by salvaging the final game of the opening series of the season with a 10-7 victory on Sunday. Miguel Cabrera connected with a pair of two-run homers, but the biggest reason for the Tigers success was the perfect day for Brennan Boesch.
Getting a start at DH (essentially replacing Magglio Ordonez in the lineup), Boesch produced hits in each of his four at bats, one of which was an RBI single and another was a two-run home run of his own. Boesch also knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly. Certainly, as we saw yesterday, having a guy like Cabrera behind him is much more beneficial for Boesch than the reverse was for Cabrera last season.
Ordonez left the game on Saturday with a sore ankle. He didn’t play yesterday at all as the Tigers are trying to nip this latest ailment in the bud before it can linger. For the time being, Jim Leyland can certainly justify using Boesch more frequently and giving Ordonez some extra days off in the first part of the season. That said, the Tigers best chance for winning baseball is with a healthy Ordonez in the lineup. What happens when Maggs is ready to go full-force once again?
The easy answer, and one Chris eluded to yesterday, would be to platoon Boesch with left fielder Ryan Raburn. I’m just not sure that play works as well in practice as it does in theory. We saw last season that Boesch can hit left handers every bit as well as righties, if not more so. Boesch also showed how streaky he can be with his dynamite first half and horrendous second half. Raburn, like Boesch, has a history of being streaky, but his career .750 OPS versus right handed pitching is certainly good enough to play every day.
Still, at bats must be found for Boesch, especially if he continues to show he is capable of producing the way he did in New York, and reminding everyone why he was a runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year honors in the first half last season.
Now certainly these things do have a tendency to work themselves out. We could see an injury that opens at bats for Boesch, such as the one Magglio is dealing with right now. It doesn’t appear as if the Ordonez ailment will need anything more than a coupe of days rest, however, and then Boesch is back to the bench.
For me, as much as I don’t think it would actually happen, I think the answer is to have Victor Martinez catch a bit more than originally planned and have Boesch take those at bats away from Alex Avila. I know that it’s irresponsible to make rash changes after only two games for both Boesch and Avila, but what we saw in those two games was a stark contrast in the fortunes of those two players. Not only was Avila overmatched at the plate, but he wasn’t exactly stellar defensively, which was the whole reason Martinez wasn’t going to catch very often, wasn’t it?
We can chalk it up to a slow start for now, but if these trends continue the leash will get shorter for Avila in a hurry, especially when there is a much more potent bats sitting on the bench.
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