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Besides Inge, Who Plays Center?

Soon after news of Curtis Granderson's hand injury was announced, the Tigersosphere began guessing who would replace him in center field. Four names were thrown out there for discussion. Considering the number of times that the Tigers played him in center during Spring Training, some (including myself) figured the choice would be Brandon Inge. Yet the majority of his centerfield experience (19 of 20 games) took place four years ago.

Others looked at Ryan Raburn's resume, and the 13 games he played in center last season for Detroit, and thought he'd be the guy. Jacque Jones was another candidate, having played 243 games in center during his major league career, including 84 last season with the Cubs. A wild card choice, perhaps, given that he was unlikely to make the Tigers' major league roster otherwise is Freddy Guzman, a quote-unquote natural center fielder acquired from the Texas Rangers in early December.

Jim Leyland answered some of the speculation when he named Inge the Tigers' Opening Day center fielder, but acknowledged that someone else would have to help out, as Inge would also be the team's back-up catcher. Leyland added that he knew who would replace Granderson on the 25-man roster, but opted to keep that information to himself yesterday.

However, Lynn Henning passed along a surprising revelation in this morning's Detroit News, reporting that Raburn would not be the alternate center fielder when Inge is needed behind the plate.

Ryan Raburn has been excluded from consideration, Leyland said. It is possible that Jacque Jones could switch from left field to center. Leyland also could make reserve outfielder Freddy Guzman a temporary replacement.

One explanation could be that Leyland prefers Raburn to concentrate on backing up in the infield, thus allowing Inge to concentrate on center field and catcher. Maybe he also prefers a left-handed bat to pair with Inge. This would seem to make it likely that Leyland intends to keep Guzman (a switch-hitter) with the big league club while Granderson recovers. Not only would he be a natural center fielder who could be a defensive replacement in later innings, but Guzman's speed also gives Leyland a valuable pinch-running weapon to use.