Before the game, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media Will Rhymes will start the season as his second baseman. Whether or not he is the opening day starter is another question, but Rhymes will be the regular starting baseman to begin the year.
Leyland told the media (quoted at Beck's blog):
"I know he hit .304 in the big leagues last year, and he hasn't done anything to show me he can't play. "He's played his tail off this spring. He gets base hits and fights his tail off at the plate. He's a little energy piece for us."
Right decision, wrong reasoning? I suppose it's better citing that stat than some spring training numbers. As you'll recall, last year Rhymes became the first Tigers rookie since 1939 to bat at least .300 in 200+ plate appearances. (Rhymes had a .304 average and .354 on-base percentage for the season).
All along, I wrote that Rhymes had an excellent shot to begin at second base because he is a left-handed batter who can bunt the ball as well as put the ball into play. He's not Rickey Henderson, but he does fine on the basepaths, too. In the minors, Rhymes had just two seasons during which his on-base percentage dipped beneath .350. His strikeout rate was in the teens, and his walk rate was typically in the 7-9% range. Why do all those things matter? Because Detroit did not have a prototypical second-slot batter for the lineup, and they have right-handers penned in at the first, third and fourth spots in the lineup.
Giving Rhymes the opportunity to hold down second base until Carlos Guillen attempts to come back makes sense to me.