Right Out Of Left Field

Andy Dirks, our presumptive mostly-everyday LF, is having back surgery. He’ll be out 12 weeks at the least. The alarmist in me reads this as: Dirks will be out 4 months minimum, will struggle mightily when he does get back, and in essence, he’s done as a Tiger. Even the non-alarmist has to admit that chances of Dirks staying in the long-range plans for LF, 2015 and beyond, have fallen considerably. 2014 was Redemption Year for Andy, and I no longer see any redemption (or patience for it) happening. I think there will be a new direction entirely.

The short-term “what to do?” is well-covered by Jason Beck. I can’t reprise it any better. I will offer that this boosts Don Kelly’s stock. “Useful” may have become “nearly indispensable.” A plausible bench at this point would be Kelly, Worth, Lombardozzi, and Holaday. If that seems odd, consider how the Tigers could possibly carry less than two infielders with uncertainty at two positions there. Don Kelly can play all three OF positions well. I see him as less of a platoon partner for Rajai Davis and more of a 4th outfielder who might be in for a lot of playing time on a running basis. Not a whole lot different than last year’s role, really.

Which brings us to Rajai Davis. Who is this guy? Well, he’s scary fast. He’s also no great shakes as an OF defender (particularly in LF), doesn’t hit that well for average and has a low career OBP, and has no power, not even gap power (look at his triples numbers). He’s especially mediocre against RHP. I’m looking for some sign that he could surprise as more of an everyday LF than we think, and not finding it. Acquiring a solid replacement for Dirks might be in order, and forget the business with Kelly. This could be selling Trevor Crowe and Ezequiel Carrera short, though. Lots of ST to go yet.

ST GAME 6
ST GAME 7
ST GAME 8
ST GAME 9
ST GAME 10
ST GAME 11

And now, our live and in-person Detroit Tigers ST correspondent. More excerpts from the Book of Jud:

3/3: Smyly was down – down..down… change slowed down on everyone except Peralta. high FB crank…second time up high hanger crank out again…next batter he goes down again easy ground ball. ..Both of Peralta’s were fly balls carried in the wind..just barely cleared fence. Worth played all nine innings.. no one does that…read into that what we want. Davis ran from home to third on that triple in a frickin flash!!!!..faster than AJ. Ortega threw about 11 pitches in his inning 9 were 94-96..9 were strikes. Coke was pitiful of the 5 hits he gave up..4 were to lefties. He didnt pitch with the starting D but maybe Kinsler would have gotten to acouple of the GB hits. Not one pitch over 89…one at 76 everything else at 84-88. Castellanos muffed an easy GB…but made up for it with the longest HR of the day. It was a bomb.

3/6: I was thinking about this while the rain cones down but in the game Rajai Davis hit the triple guys who are fast like Jackson round the bases so fast the bow way out so that its almost a circle the are running rounding first….Davis is different he cuts the bases so fast and tight, he almost runs a straight line between bases..I bet he takes 10-15 less steps than most fast guys on a triple.While he was running I thought he was running 65 ft softball bases …he is crazy fast!!!

3/7: Any way these pitcher drills were always kind of a joke with Leyland..lot of laughing and screwing around. The drills I am watching seem to be taken a little more seriously. Maybe cause guys are fighting for spots or maybe its because of Ausmus ..I don’t see JV and I know I would recognize him. I am outside the fence about 100 feet away. It’s still pretty wet from yesterdays rain but it always amazes me how efficient and fast the ground crew gets things done. This whole complex is beautiful. And theres lots to take care of… Marte balks in winning run…wont matter he looks exactly like Coke from the right side. batting practice pitches all 86-87 nothing on them.  Lombardozzi is like a talented Kelly. he can run and hit…Castellanos runs good. I failed to mention before that I have seen Jackson bat 6 times now and he has hit the ball on the button all 6 times. he looks good. Robby Ray is going to be just fine.

3/7: At Steinbrenner stadium the absolutely best thing is the grotto just outside the entrance to the field. there are big rocks with brass plaques of retired Yankee numbers. One for each going right up..1..Martin, 3 Ruth, 4 Gerhig, 5 DiMaggio, 7 Mantle, 8 Yogi, 9 Maris, 15 Munson……..etc….it is the coolest display ever. People whisper when in there…the ground is spotless…I am not anywhere near a Yankee fan but I am in awe when I walk thru there.

3/8:  Joba was throwing a lot of breaking balls and so was Ray. maybe it was the plan and there were some walks. but both got out of there inning. wheres as Marte just like last time was straight and pounded…we didn’t see Miggy take BP here but before the Cardinal game he went over the berm with acouple and hit the 420 CF sign in BP…he looked “normal” to me.

29 Comments

  1. Smoking Loon

    March 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I see that the Tigers are sporting a .652 OPS after 12 Grapefruit League games. Hmmm. On the other hand, there’s the pitching staff’s .210 BAA and 1.07 WHIP.

    • Vince in MN

      March 10, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Pitchers are always ahead of hitters in ST (unless you are Phil Coke), and even into the early part of the year. Batters will catch up and stats will start to approach realistic levels.

      Tigers need another OF, so Worth won’t be on the bench unless there is another injury.

      Are we excited about the Avila/Holaday catching duo yet?

      • Smoking Loon

        March 12, 2014 at 11:34 pm

        I thought it was pitchers who needed time to stretch and warm up in spring. “Working on stuff” is a higher priority than getting outs. Advantage hitters, I think. The advantage swings to pitchers in April when all head north. Weather. Anyway, the Tigers were rock bottom in the hitting stats when I checked. The Baltimore Orioles were/are tearing it up.

        • Smoking Loon

          March 12, 2014 at 11:38 pm

          Worth has it all over Lombardozzi at SS. The Iglesias situation calls for a little instant depth at SS. Lombardozzi can play some OF. Kelly plays the whole OF with aplomb. So what would be the point of bumping Worth (or Hernan Perez, for that matter) to add another OF, when there’s already plenty of OF in Kelly and Lombardozzi?

          • Smoking Loon

            March 12, 2014 at 11:41 pm

            I’m fine with Avila/Holaday. I think it’s solid. I’m a little less fine with Davis/Kelly in LF. Picking up a replacement for Dirks has got to be a consideration. Even though you’ve gotta like a guy who wears an oven mitt.

            Bring back Matt Tuiasosopo. RHB, so what. He can hit righties better than Davis.

          • Vince in MN

            March 13, 2014 at 8:26 am

            Unfortunately Kelly doesn’t hit with aplomb. Nor does Worth or Perez or Holaday for that matter. The bench basically sucks, that’s why they need an addition, preferably an OF.

            • Coleman

              March 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm

              He doesn’t hit much with his bat either, unfortunately.

              • Smoking Loon

                March 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm

                I wouldn’t say that the bench sucks, however it shakes out. Not every team has a Miguel Cabrera at 1B. In fact, no team does. For many teams, that extra bat on the bench is a 1B-OF type. The bench looks better for it, but the team isn’t, not as compared to what the Tigers have. For many teams, there’s one star OF and a more flexible situation after that. The Tigers have two everyday locks in Hunter and Jackson. Very few teams can field an infield of all two-way stars. The likes of Worth, Perez, Lomardozzi, et al, is a very typical IF bench selection. The reserves have to *defend* above all. And Avila/Holaday is sooooo MLB-typical. Can’t find anything to complain about in having a younger catcher with some potential in the role formerly held by journeymen.

                The Tigers have been built, under Dombrowski/Leyland, for more of a clear division between starters and reserves. This continues. Other teams take a different approach, a more flexible one. Interesting from a fan’s perspective, not necessarily better. Their benches look better, but again, that “surplus” comes out of the starter account.

                I’ll grant that the depth of the bench selection is being tested by the Dirks and Iglesias situations. Not that I felt let down by the bench in 2013, but I think Ausmus will make better choices and put the bench to better use than Leyland did. So I’m not worried about that.

  2. TIGERS RULE

    March 9, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    • Vince in MN

      March 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Considering that the guy is never going to play 1B for the Tigers, I say why not. But there doesn’t seem to be any indication that brass thinks this an “internal option”, probably because defense has suddenly become important this year. Maybe ace reporter Jud can look into this. Any sightings of Lennerton shagging flies?

      • Smoking Loon

        March 12, 2014 at 11:31 pm

        Don’t see Lennerton in the OF. He plays a position where you have to be simply *tremendous* as a hitter in the minors just to have a shot at being a reserve in the bigs. And he’s not. I love a good Cinderella story, but…

  3. jud

    March 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    when I watched Lennerton at first I really was shocked at his lack of range. True I only was him vs the Cards , but in the inning Coke pitched there as a GB to his right he got a step and a half towards and then in the same inning a GB between him and the bag that wasn’t right on the line he looked “Fielderlike” …don’t see him as an outfielder…I like Carrera..he has played a lot and plays hard..has kinda played all three OF spots. It is my take that the Dirks injury has opened a huge door for him!

    • Smoking Loon

      March 15, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Hard to see Carrera as much of an upgrade over even Kelly, but that is stats-based, haven’t seen the games. Big difference. Watching the televised ST games last season was a big disappointment, though, especially early. The coverage is so indifferent and informal. It did allow me to see and get excited about a few guys who would have otherwise just been names with stats, but I passed on it this time.

  4. judpma

    March 10, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I am not buying this Coke is ahead of last years schedule bit for anything..First he is getting lit up by guys wearing numbers in the 90′s…he and Marte are awful!…Ortega has been lights out at 95-96 no one even puts a bat on him! …i haven’t watched Krol…and last Robbie Ray can pitch..he isn’t that 6’5 guy DD likes but he has VG movement, a decent change and curveball…maybe a year away, but he is legit!

    • Smoking Loon

      March 12, 2014 at 11:52 pm

      I think Coke is going to be Boesched. He’s great fun, I’ll miss him, but the pitching and the excuse-making talk about it is a continuation of last season. Enough already. Krol and Hardy for bullpen southpaws, good deal. I’d love three, but Below picked a lousy time to have elbow problems.

      So how’s it looking? Nathan, Rondon (uh-oh, soreness this and soreness that), Chamberlain, Krol, Hardy, Ortega, Alburquerque?

  5. jud

    March 11, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    today tuesday 3/11 I am sitting at the airport waiting for my flight back to California. I wish could stay longer. But I need to get back home. I am a high school/ college softball pitching coach and I have been workng with East coast and Midwest spring break college pitchers in Florida, away from my Southern Cal pitchers for two weeks. I need to get back. Hopfully I typed some interesting things for you that you didn’t get from the “at bat” box score. I leave here with my usual pre-season optimism that this is going to by yet another great year. I liked everything I saw from Asmus and the new coaches. A new energy is something that we will see…I will be disappointed if the Tigers stop running when they go north. The base running was very aggressive and guys were actually safe most of the time instead of another tag out. Stolen bases and the double steal at time. Starting pitching is as good as ever..they are not giving up much. The bullpen has questions but I believe the answers are here. I don’T think they need a trade. Nathan..Rondon..Ortega were lights out!…..Thats about it boys……see ya in a couple weeks typing on opening day…your man in Florida…Jud

    • Vince in MN

      March 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Thank you sir, your reports have been very informative and entertaining.

      • TIGERS RULE

        March 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

        I’ll second that!

        • Smoking Loon

          March 12, 2014 at 11:55 pm

          Yeah. Thanks, jud. Though you were going to be in Florida longer.

          Anyone else down Florida way?

          Coleman, if you pretend you’re in Florida, I’ll believe you even if no one else does.

  6. Brad in ct

    March 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I will third that.

  7. Brad in ct

    March 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    It is great to see Castellanos producing so well in ST. 13 RBI’s as of today and he hasn’t played everyday. I am excited about Moya also. I try to follow the minors pretty close and had never heard of him and thought he was a 26 y.o. 4A guy. I did some research and as you all probably know he is only 22 and was told to quit being a switch hitter when he was signed. So, hitting only lefty is an adjustment. How great would it be if his ST showing continues in AA?

    • Smoking Loon

      March 12, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Yes, I was impressed with Moya from reports and what little I saw of him last year. I think that he and Tyler Collins are a couples OF prospects to watch. A future Tigers team with both Castellanos and Moya in their fully-realized prime could be something to see.

      • Jim EggersUSMC

        March 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

        Watched the replay of the yankee game, and very encouraged by the hitting and pitching. It is of course very early, but have a good feeling about this club. They even used a shift! WOW!!

  8. Smoking Loon

    March 15, 2014 at 11:29 am

    http://tinyurl.com/k59q4l7

    Florida vs. Arizona.

    • Jim EggersUSMC

      March 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      I was just talking about this with that lady that lives here, and we wondering what the future held for spring training in Florida. It seems that every year a franchise or two heads west. I have watched bits and pieces of most of the spring games on MLB network, and see stiffer competition in AZ than in FL, probably a quantity versus quality thing. Hope the Floridians (?) realize what is going on, and come up with some incentives to stop the westward ho thing.

      • Smoking Loon

        March 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        I had no idea so many teams were now in AZ. Seems like a tipping point has been reached. Someone needs to come up with a research paper quickly, one that proves that teams which train in FL do better than those that train in AZ in the highly atypical (for the majority of the US) weather. That’s my convenient theory, because I might like to attend spring training one of these years, and I don’t want to have to go all the way to AZ to do it. That I would pass on, no doubt.

  9. Smoking Loon

    March 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Some names to consider (I’ve seen ‘em mentioned, anyway) as possibilities to fill the LHB void in LF (I really can’t take Carrera and Crowe seriously at this point, not if the other half is Davis):

    Chicago Cubs – Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney
    Colorado Rockies – Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon

    The Tigers have pitching to offer as an interesting starter for discussion with the Cubs/Rockies. Names I’d throw out there would be Evan Reed, Jose Alvarez, Phil Coke, and Al Alburquerque. I really don’t think the Tigers can settle for Davis/Kelly.

  10. jud

    March 15, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    When I was nosing around Tampa there was a strong rumor that the Yankees might move up to Ocala to some $53 million complex that has been proposed!. For what that info is worth.

  11. Smoking Loon

    March 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Ominous rumors about Jose Iglesias have led to speculation about signing Stephen Drew or trading for Nick Franklin. I say no to Drew and “only if” to Franklin. The only if being if the Tigers don’t trade for a LF, which I think is actually more important.

    Tyler Collins is making a strong case for himself as a Dirks-in-waiting, but he hasn’t played above AA.

    If it’s true that there’s a three-way competition for two spots going between Alburquerque, Putkonen, and Reed, Putkonen’s the guy I’d keep and trade one of the other two.