And here comes trouble for the Detroit Tigers. Andy Dirks injured his back and is slated for surgery and will likely miss 3-4 months of the season.
He was scheduled to be the lefty-hitting platoon mate of Rajai Davis in left field. In theory, Don Kelly could slide into that role. Dirks was supposed to get a big number of at-bats against right-handed pitching, something the newcomer Davis doesn’t perform well against. Over the past three seasons Davis has hit just .232 with a pathetic .269 on-base % against righties in a span covering 751 at-bats, no small sample size.
In 505 at-bats during that same three-year timeframe Kelly has hit just .230 with a .300 on-base % against right-handed pitching. He’s not the answer.
This news regarding Dirks is particularly frustrating as he was reported to be 100% healthy after battling a knee injury all of 2013. He was hoping to get back to his .300+ hitting ways. Plans have changed.
Steve Lombardozzi can plug into the outfield as well but Brad Ausmus had him pegged as more of an infield utility piece. If Lombo gets more time in left then Hernan Perez could break camp with the big club.
To make matters more difficult, the Tigers, as of last July, had a guy who profiled as an everyday left fielder. His name was Avisail Garcia. He now suits up on the south side of Chicago. In his place the Tigers have Jose Iglesias playing shortstop, yet he is battling an injury of his own.
The Tigers’ outfield depth in the minors is razor thin. Daniel Fields, Tyler Collins, and Steven Moya are strong prospects but simply aren’t ready yet. Nick Castellanos would have been, but he now plays third base.
It is amazing how one spring training injury can rattle the foundation of a 25-man roster. The Tigers’ could’ve sought help in the form of free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz who sat on the market for what seemed like ages but he finally signed a 1-year, $8M deal with Baltimore a little over a week ago.
30-year old Trevor Crowe is in camp on a minor league deal. But he couldn’t even hang with the Astros last year and offers nothing of note against right-handed pitching either.
Hey, I know, Miguel Cabrera played a little left field back in the day…
GM Dave Dombrowski will assess the damage and plug the hole as spring training rolls along. The Tigers will survive this setback but it’s an ominous start to a season already full of unknowns.
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