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Six spring training stories: second basemen, outfielders, pitchers and more

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Sure, the trendy thing would have been to give you five stories to watch as spring training gets underway in Lakeland. But we're better than that around here, right? So we're going to give you 20% more: six spring training stories to follow. What a bargain! So what have we got on tap today?

  • The battle at second base among Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore and Danny Worth.
  • The backup roles in the outfield, which will see Brennan Boesch, Clete Thomas and Casper Wells battling for position
  • The roles of the lefties in the bullpen and which ones will make the club
  • How Phil Coke will adjust to being a starting pitcher
  • What health concerns will come up?
  • What new wrinkles for the club do Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski have in mind?
The battle at second base among Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore and Danny Worth

As Jim Leyland says, someone will be playing second base when the season opens. We just don't know who yet. The Tigers have three players competing for the job of second baseman. I projected Will Rhymes would win the role in the Tigers Annual 2011. Why? Because he spent the most time there in 2010 and played pretty well. Scott Sizemore is a question mark entering spring training. He has the best minor-league pedigree of the three players but that doesn't necessarily mean much. It sure didn't during his first season. But then, too, Sizemore was coming off a fractured ankle. It's certainly possible he'll learn from his struggles and come into camp looking like a new player this year. The darkhorse candidate is Danny Worth, who is really more of a shortstop. Neither his minor league nor major league stats look all that exciting, but he plays solid defense and will have a chance to prove himself at camp.

The backup roles in the outfield, which will see Brennan Boesch, Clete Thomas and Casper Wells battling for position

It's reasonable to expect Ryan Raburn is the starting left fielder, Austin Jackson the center fielder and Magglio Ordonez the right fielder. That leaves us questioning who the fourth outfielder for the team will be, and how to account for Don Kelly in these figurings. Each of the applicants brings a little something unique. Who goes north may be less decided by the particulars of spring training and more by the needs of the club. Brennan Boesch obviously has the left-handed pop and the experience of an incredible two months in the MLB last season. Clete Thomas is a guy who gives you some occasional left-handed power as well, but is best known for his defense at multiple positions. That brings some flexibility. Casper Wells might be the best combination of batting and fielding of the trio, but will being a right-handed batter bring down his chances of making the club? We shall see.

The roles of the lefties in the bullpen and which ones will make the club

Overall, the Tigers have a pretty good bullpen to start the season. Like any club, they'll have to try to keep it healthy. But that's another bullet point, isn't it? The big question mark comes when you begin to think about the possible left-handed pitchers and what roles they might slot into. With Phil Coke moving from the bullpen to the rotation, Brad Thomas and Daniel Schlereth will see their roles gain importance -- especially in a division with so many feared left-handed sluggers. While some want to pencil Thomas in as the bullpen's mop-up man, that would leave the inexperienced and control-challenged Schlereth as the main lefty specialist. Unless the Tigers acquire a veteran, the other possible left-handers on the roster have even less experience than Schlereth. While it's not likely a do-or-die proposition, you'd prefer not to have this problem play a re-occurring role during the season.

How Phil Coke will adjust to being a starting pitcher

Given the last bullet point, one might wonder if Detroit made the right decision in moving Coke from a spot in the bullpen to one in the rotation. But you know what? It's more valuable if he can find success as a starting pitcher than just a lefty specialist. Besides it's what he wants to do too. Put it all together and it makes sense to give it a shot. How's it going to turn out? Who knows. There were some encouraging signs last season but now Coke will have to learn to pace himself for a six-plus inning night on the mound rather than be amped up for a handful of outs. He'll have to face the same batters several times in a game as well. But go ahead and doubt him. He'd love to prove you wrong. We hope he does.

What health concerns will come up?

What was it Donald Rumsfeld said? There are known knowns, there are known unknowns, and there are unknown unknowns? Something like that? That's how to approach the Tigers' health concerns this season. We know Carlos Guillen will be late getting to the team and, if history can be our guide, an early exit when he arrives. We know Joel Zumaya will be a big question mark the entire season. We even know Max Scherzer's mechanics will continue to make people nervous, despite his ability to stay healthy thus far in his career. But will there be any health problems that come up that we can't even predict? I doubt anyone saw Zach Miner or Bobby Seay's injuries ahead of time last year. So let's hope the team remains healthy.

What new wrinkles for the club do Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski have in mind?

There's been a lot of talk about doing more work on the base paths. There's been some talk about working on some new specifics during pitcher's pitching practice. There's even some talk of a few other tricks up Jim Leyland's sleeve that he isn't talking about in the media. So the question is, what style of play can we expect from the Tigers as they take the field this year, and how much of that will show up during spring training? Slightly related, you might remember Detroit signed Johnny Damon late in February last year. Will Dave Dombrowski make any deals by the end of spring training?

Six weeks from now, we'll know about these six topics and more.