There is all kinds of buzz surrounding the Detroit Tigers today including the initial version of the 25-man roster, the apparent status of Brandon Inge, as well as the release of Thursday’s opening day lineup.
First, the lineup:
- Austin Jackson – CF
- Brennan Boesch – RF
- Miguel Cabrera – 3B
- Prince Fielder – 1B
- Delmon Young – LF
- Ryan Raburn – DH
- Jhonny Peralta – SS
- Alex Avila – C
- Ramon Santiago – 2B
Can you say damage?
The biggest surprise here is that Delmon Young will be starting in left field and it looks like that will be the primary arrangement. DY getting regular play in left field basically assures that Detroit will field one of the worst defenses in recent memory. Hopes of Andy Dirks manning left and getting steady at-bats appear to have been dashed.
Also, Ryan Raburn has been moved into a heavy RBI spot in the 6 hole. He was projected as low as 9th in many hypothetical lineups. Alex Avila, originally thought to be the 6 hitter, will now bat 8th. Having a hitter as talented as Avila batting 8th speaks volumes to the depth of this lineup.
With Drew Smyly getting one minor league start before officially joining the team and Brandon Inge designated for the disable list with his strained groin, the Tigers have their 25-man roster, sort of. Dirks, Clete Thomas, and Danny Worth all made the squad but two of them will likely be demoted in short order.
Jim Leyland ended a mountain of speculation by clarifying Inge’s role with the team once he is healthy enough to play. He will be the starting 2nd baseman against lefties. Raburn will start at 2nd against righties, which should free up some at-bats for Dirks as either the DH or left fielder.
Based on today’s Grapefruit League lineup, it appears as though a scenario exists in Jim Leyland’s head where Dirks will actually DH in favor of Young playing in left. The only possible explanation for this is that of stroking Delmon’s ego. Something to watch this year: for every ball that rattles around in the corner in left, just ask yourself if Dirks would’ve cut it off before it got that far.
On the surface, saying that Inge will only start at 2nd against lefties seems like a minimal role. Consider however that the Royals have 3 lefty starters in their rotation, the Twins have one, and the White Sox have 2. Only the Indians are lefty-less in the AL Central. So Inge will get his starts. How a career .235 hitter who is learning a new position performs will be an interesting study.
If the Inge thing is real, and not just a smokescreen to pave the way for an eventual trade, I feel that this is the first time all offseason that the Tigers have made a decision that doesn’t favor putting the best lineup on the field. Yes, Inge is a decent hitter against lefties, but let’s not exaggerate that point please.
So what about Ramon Santiago? He is slated to be the backup 2B/SS. However, it sounds like 2B is on virtual lockdown between Inge and Raburn, not to mention Peralta only needed 16 days of rest last year. Will Santiago ever play? Is Inge really here for the duration? I’m not so sure.