One of the most surprising Detroit Tigers signings from the off-season was Omar Infante. He has continued to surprise fans throughout spring training.
The former Detroit Tigers infielder seemed to be washed up after his last few seasons with the Kansas Royals.
But, he is showing the Tigers front office that this is not the case.
Infante has played in 10 spring training games with 23 at-bats. His slash is currently .391/.417/.565 with a .982 OPS. In those 23 at-bats, he has 9 hits, 4 RBIs, and 3 strikeouts. His best season was in 2010 when he was named an All-Star with the Atlanta Braves. His slash was .321/.359/.416 with an OPS of .775.
No Room at Second Base
In the Detroit fanbase, Infante is known for playing second base. Of course, that position belongs squarely to Ian Kinsler. So, if Infante was added to the 25-man roster, he would have to play elsewhere. Throughout his history in the MLB, he has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base.
Of course, there is the center fielder position that is available, and there are several players who are working to get it. Infante has played center field, but the last time he roamed the big outfield in Comerica Park was in 2007. The space is still just as large as it was 10 years ago, but Infante is also 10 years older. Center field can be a tough space for a speedy youngster like JaCoby Jones, let alone for a 35-year-old veteran who has played infield positions for the past five seasons.
Filling in as a Utility Player
But, there is still another position that Infante could fill: utilityman.
Unfortunately for Infante, he has serious competition for that spot. Andrew Romine has made a subtle change to his swing that is paying off in spades. He has hit two home runs in spring training and he has stolen a pair of bases. Romine has two things going for him over Infante. First, he is four years young. Second, he can bat from the left side. Romine has also been a consistent utility player for the Tigers, playing everything except catcher.
What about Dixon Machado?
The other issue that could be standing in Infante’s way is Dixon Machado. The young shortstop is out of options (along with Romine), so one or both men must be added to the 25-man roster. Machado’s stats are similar to Romine’s, minus the home runs and stolen bases. With the big trend of young and flashy shortstops, Machado is an asset that the Tigers do not want to part with.
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Romine’s slash is .314/.333/.486 with an OPS of .819. Machado’s are .313/.361/.371 with an OPS of .736.
World Series Experience
However, Infante has something that neither man has: experience in the World Series. Infante was on both the Tigers 2006 and 2012 teams that played in the World Series. He also played in the World Series with the Kansas City Royals in 2014. He did not play with the Royals in 2015 when they won the whole thing.
Infante is good insurance if the Tigers decide to part ways with Kinsler at some point during the season. But, then again, so is JaCoby Jones. It’s nice to have so many possibilities for the middle infield. Infante’s hunger to play is evident and hopefully, he will get some sort of reward for the skills he has shown so far.