I’ve long been a Chris Shelton advocate, and if you’ve been reading the blog this winter you know that I stumped for Big Red to be the first baseman over Sean Casey. With Marcus Thames proving to be adequate at first base, it seemed Shelton was destined to be a Mud Hen. But according to Danny Knobler, there just may be room:
The surprise this morning was that the Tigers are now wavering on the final position player spot, and Chris Shelton is suddenly back in the picture. Shelton has hit well this spring (.391 through Saturday), but the biggest thing is that the Tigers are starting to wonder how often Sean Casey is going to need a day off at first base — and whether it makes sense to have no other true first baseman on the roster (with Marcus Thames and Carlos Guillen as the available backups).
The problem with Shelton making the roster, is that he makes Marcus Thames remarkably useless. That’s quite a feat given Thames is one of the better hitters on the roster. If Shelton is on the team, he presumably is the back-up first baseman. He is very good defensively at first base, and I have every confidence that his bat will return. If it becomes a platoon situation, Thames and Shelton both bat from the same side so there is nothing to be gained in that regard.
Now Thames could of course DH against left handers, except that Sheffield will be filling that role. And Craig Monroe and Magglio Ordonez will of course be manning the corner outfield spots.
What you’re left with is a situation where Shelton and Thames are splitting time as the back-up first baseman. This won’t do either player – or the team – a whole lot of good. Shelton taking Thames’ turns at bat doesn’t provide the team a boost. Shelton, if he isn’t going to get regular playing time with Detroit, is probably better off in Toledo.
I’d be surprised if the last roster spot didn’t go to Neifi Perez or Ramon Santiago. And even starting in Toledo I’d be surprised if Chris Shelton doesn’t spend time in Detroit. Sean Casey is a good bet to get injured. Craig Monroe has a little bit of a gimpy knee meaning Thames could find some time in the outfield as well. And we’re all nervous about Magglio Ordonez.
Now it will be interesting to see how the Tigers cope with some of the nagging type injuries. Normally the team would try to avoid placing a player on the disabled list, but if looks like someone is going to miss more than a handful of games Detroit may pull the trigger quicker with Shelton available. Without a true first baseman beyond Casey, the Tigers can’t afford to go too many games without a replacement.
We won’t have to wonder too long though because the announcement of the final roster spot is expected tomorrow.