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 Bench versatility a must-have for Tigers

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PostSubject: Bench versatility a must-have for Tigers   Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:36 pm

Bench versatility a must-have for Tigers
Club looking at players who are flexible for final spots

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

01/27/10 7:46 PM EST

DETROIT -- Dave Dombrowski took over general manager duties with the Tigers in 2002 and immediately faced the challenge of retooling a roster that had too many hitters without a clear position. Now he's trying to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself.

That '02 team featured Randall Simon, Craig Paquette, Dmitri Young and Robert Fick. All but Young were gone by the end of the year. Detroit's 2010 squad will feature corner outfielders Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen in their mid-30s and the Tigers hoping to rotate them in and out of the designated-hitter role.

That desire pretty much precluded them from any major role for Jim Thome. It doesn't necessarily preclude them from pursuing a veteran, 30-something outfielder such as Johnny Damon or Jim Edmonds.

As the days tick down toward the start of Spring Training, the glut of hitters left on the free-agent market has only slightly eased. The Tigers' stance against adding a DH-type hitter has not.

"If we ever sign somebody, and we've said this all wintertime, we don't want him to just be a DH," Dombrowski said Saturday at TigerFest. "If we would ever do anything, that person needs to be primarily somebody that can play another position, because we want to keep our DH spot open.

"Magglio and Carlos are [at the point] in their careers [where] we'd like to give them a day off [from the field] now and then. So for us, it's important to be able to have that guy play another position. And there are a lot of what I consider DH-type bats out there, but we're trying to put an emphasis on going and getting the ball and playing good defense. So that flexibility for us is important."

A lot of hitters still available fit that problem, but not all. It remains to be seen whether the Tigers will take another look at Damon or other free-agent outfielders.

Damon's name briefly popped up in rumors with Detroit a couple weeks ago. At that point, Dombrowski shot down rumors with a statement that he hadn't expressed interest in Damon.

While it's believed there was some sort of contact between Damon's agent, Scott Boras, and the Tigers, it doesn't necessarily mean the Tigers made the contact. On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported information from an unnamed source saying Boras was reaching out to the Tigers and Reds to try to "engage" one or both clubs in discussions on Damon.

Dombrowski had nothing to add when asked in an e-mail about Damon.

To Boras' credit, his track record of pairing his players with the Tigers has worked out well a few times for both sides, starting with Ivan Rodriguez and continuing with Ordonez and Kenny Rogers. The appeal in the 36-year-old Damon would be a proven leadoff hitter who has contributed to team success in New York and Boston the past several years and could potentially allow Detroit to bat center fielder Austin Jackson lower in the order and pick and choose spots for Ryan Raburn and Clete Thomas. The downside would be a weaker throwing arm in left field, though the Tigers already have options out there with Guillen and Raburn.

Then there's Edmonds, one of the most highly regarded center fielders in the game during his prime. He's older now, nearing his 40th birthday in June, and he didn't play at all last year, but his interest in coming out of retirement has fueled plenty of speculation about where he might end up. Most likely, it would be in an extra outfield role.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has a familiarity with Edmonds from his days as a scout for the Cardinals, for whom Edmonds was a fixture in center field from 2000-07. But as Detroit's recent history in the marketplace shows, familiarity means little.

A look at Detroit's entire roster shows why positional flexibility is so important. Eleven positional spots are most likely spoken for, including Raburn, utility man Ramon Santiago and a second catcher behind Gerald Laird. Assuming Leyland sticks with a 12-man pitching staff like in years past, that leaves two roster spots open.
If the Tigers stick to their plan to use Raburn in the outfield only, they'll have a good reason to have one more player with infield capabilities. If both Guillen and Ordonez are rotating in and out of the outfield, one more outfielder would seem to be a good fit for the other spot.

Among the players currently on Detroit's 40-man roster, Don Kelly has the capability of playing all around the infield and all three outfield spots, though his center-field experience comes entirely from Triple-A Toledo.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Bench versatility a must-have for Tigers   Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:18 pm

Here's why someone like Jim Thome would help us.

He wouldn't have to worry about the field on most days, and would mainly only need to worry about his hitting. He's a high average hitter and still has a power swing. He had 17 homers last year, and just putting someone in the DH from the field would still have them be tired and active. I'd rather they get a day off totally then go back to the field and play 100%.

I feel like DHs are more effective when all they have to do is hit. We need more offense, and I think Thome would do that over any combination of DHs that are guys with "days off from the field".
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