Interleague play is always an adventure. You've got National League teams trying to create a designated hitter by bringing a role player into their lineup, and American League teams trying to keep the offense going while losing the designated hitter in NL parks. It was cute in 1997. Now it's just annoying. But I digress.
How this effects the Tigers is clear: After several years of rotating the DH among several players, Victor Martinez resides there most of the time now. If Detroit had a light-hitting catcher, you could probably solve the problem by having Martinez catch in NL parks most days and call it good. But the Tigers have a catcher who can hit the ball: Alex Avila. And he hits it pretty hard and usually with good frequency. That means the Tigers risk losing one of their two bats as they travel west to visit the Rockies and Dodgers beginning Friday.
None of the three options that might be described as "best" for Tigers manager Jim Leyland are palatable. They could simply do without Avila or Martinez. They could move Miguel Cabrera across the diamond to third base, a position he last played April 19, 2008. Or they could move Avila from catcher to third base -- a position he last played in college at Alabama in 2007.
Even then, Avila didn't play often at third base. He started 37 games as the Crimson Tide's designated hitter, seven as the first baseman and just 13 as the third baseman. So we're not talking about an accomplished third baseman here.
The reason we're discussing that option at all is that Leyland chuckled to himself as he dropped a bomb shell on the media in his pregame session Tuesday. Leyland told reporters:
"I'm contemplating playing Alex at third base a game, maybe.
"I'm just throwing this out there. I had (Avila) take some grounders there. But it's just a thought I'm having. I'm trying to be a little creative.
"It's not a major story. But if they'd had a catcher at Alabama, Alex would probably still be a third baseman. It's good for him they didn't have a catcher because it's worked out for him.
"I'm not even saying I'm going to do it. There are a lot of catches to it. I'm just thinking, wracking my brain -- trying to create ways because it's six in a row. I hate to lose those bats."
The other idea, as I said, is moving Cabrera across the diamond. Honestly, I think this has about 0% chance of happening and is suggested only because Cabrera does have major league experience at third base. Not that his experience there was good. He showed below average range -- a trend that has continued at first base -- and was several runs worse than the average third baseman. But it is only for a couple of games, right, and it if can keep all the best hitters in the lineup it might make up for defensive shortcomings. The best reason it shouldn't happen is that moving your franchise slugger to a position he hasn't played for several years does come with added risks of injury or getting him out of his comfort zone. Minus the "franchise" tag, though, couldn't the same be said for moving Avila to third?
Ultimately, I don't expect the Tigers will opt for any added creativity. They've done fine in interleague series during the past five seasons under Leyland. A little time off to rest for Martinez or Avila wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, especially when you consider the team always struggles down the stretch. The Tigers should be fine.
What's your take?