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Checking in on the outfield battle

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Things Jim Leyland and I have in common: We do not live in Ohio. We both hope the Tigers win a lot of games. We both have no idea how the 25-man roster is going to shake out. Neither of us smoke in the dugout. Whoops, scratch that one.

Leyland told the Detroit News' Lynn Henning a few days back:

"It's gonna be an interesting final few days of spring training. It's gonna go right down to the wire."

Here's what we know: Ryan Raburn is the starting left fielder. Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez are the center and right fielders. Don Kelly is a super-sub, and probably your late-innings defensive replacement and center fielder for Austin Jackson's off days.

Here's why I think that last fact is important: From a roster composition standpoint the Tigers will not feel quite as pressured to take a Clete Thomas or Casper Wells north simply because they have nice gloves to have on the bench.

That doesn't mean you take Thomas or Wells out of the running entirely. It just means that other aspects of their game may prove to be more important when deciding the 25-man roster. That gives Brennan Boesch a fair opportunity to make the team. (I'm going with the theory that Andy Dirks is a major leaguer at some point, but not to start the season).

So who's going to make the team? Heck if I know! Usually I like to feel a little more confident in a prediction before making it. So I'm not going to make any at this point.

It's probably between Boesch and Wells at this point. Nothing against Thomas, who is battling back from a knee injury. But he just strikes me as being a bit too close to redundant with Kelly.

You could make an argument for Boesch that looks like this: He's got some nice power off the bench. He had a great couple of months last season, and he's probably not as bad as his last couple of months. He can play both corner outfield spots without a big drop-off from their normal residents. He's a left-handed hitter and the Tigers sorely lack for left-handed batters and will see many more right-handed pitchers than left-handed. They need any boost they can get against righties.

You could make an argument for Wells that sounds like this: He can play all over the outfield in case you need Kelly to man an infield spot. He's showed an increase in power and more sustained power over the past couple of seasons in the minors than Boesch. He's a right-handed batter. It may seem like the Tigers don't need any more of those. But if Victor Martinez is catching against left-handed pitching, Magglio Ordonez is probably DH-ing. Do you want to bring a left-handed bat off your bench or a right-handed bat?

Like I said, I don't know the answer here. Jim Leyland doesn't either, so I don't feel so bad.