Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland made a point of telling reporters on Sunday morning that they were on the wrong track in saying that the competition for the "25th man" on the roster was down to just Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas. Parsing the words of the manager and GM during spring training, looking for hints as to which roster moves may be forthcoming, seems to be the favorite pastime of baseball fans this time of year, so let’s indulge.
Jason Beck reported Leyland's comments:
"Most people are talking about two guys," Leyland said Sunday morning before the Tigers’ split-squad tilt with the Yankees. "There’s definitely more than two guys, I can promise you this."
It was the skipper's way of saying Quintin Berry, 27, an outfielder and career minor-leaguer who runs like a cheetah, could topple Thomas or Dirks. Leyland never mentioned Berry by name. But he was assuredly talking about Berry....
But Beck raised a different possible scenario. Quoting Leyland, he wrote:
"I could go with four or five guys for that 25th man and be very comfortable," Leyland said.
If Worth is one of those four or five, then it backs up the idea that Brandon Inge is on the team.
About the only thing Leyland guaranteed is that the last positional guy won’t be a catcher.
"I’ve got four catchers — two emergency, and two catchers," Leyland said.
The two emergency catchers, Leyland said, are Don Kelly and Inge.
With the news that the Tigers have assigned Quintin Berry to minor league camp, along with four other non-roster invitees, does that end the drama in Leyland’s comments? Were all of those "four or five guys" taken out of the picture with the most recent roster moves? Maybe not.
What if the 25th man is Danny Worth, meaning that Brandon Inge does indeed have a job locked up, either as second baseman, utility man, or fourth string catcher? The Tigers would then carry one less outfielder, but they still have Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly, both of whom have played as much outfield than anything else in recent years. In that scenario, Raburn would be returned to his more natural defensive position in the outfield, along with some time as the DH.
One question we’d all like to know the answer to is: Does Brandon Inge have a spot locked up on the roster, no matter what he does in spring training? When Leyland said "he has to hit", he didn’t say when. Could the Tigers keep both Worth and Inge on the roster?
What do you think?