We’ve reached the point in spring training where hitters are starting to get their timing.
Pitchers are fine-tuning their repertoire.
Every player should be rounding into form, ready to go for opening day.
There may be one or two position battles left for just about every team. But for the most part, a player’s primary goal for the rest of March is simply not to get injured.
We’ve seen the usual assortment of injuries this spring. And not just on the Tigers, either. Some have been more significant than others.
Alex Wilson, Anibal Sanchez, and Cameron Maybin have lost a large chunk of time in Lakeland with various aches and pains.
The Tigers got a big scare when Victor Martinez pulled up lame rounding first in a game last week. Everyone in Tigers Nation panicked at the sight, but it was later revealed to be just a hamstring issue.
V-Mart is valuable because he is virtually the only left-handed bat in the lineup that scares anyone. With his age and recent history, it would be a longshot for him to play more than 120-130 games. Detroit would be happy with that. If he does, the production will come with it.
Ani Sanchez is a key to the rotation. Verlander and Jordan Zimmerman should have very good seasons. But without a reliable number three starter, which is where the Tigers have pegged Sanchez, it could be a long summer in Detroit.
Maybin is a plus defender, and gives the team much-needed speed on the bases.
In any given year, these three injuries would send Tiger fans into collective groans of “here we go again.”
The hope is that the Tigers appear to have enough depth to sustain such losses.
If V-Mart has to spend time on the disabled list for any reason, there are decent alternatives. Tyler Collins isn’t about to win any batting titles, but he has upside to his game, and he is left-handed. If he starts the year at Toledo, he would be readily available to be the designated hitter in V-Mart’s absence. Another left-handed hitter, Steven Moya, is also headed down to Toledo. But if he continues to show improvement at the plate as he has this spring, he could soon be ready for another shot at the major league level. Crazier things had happened.
Stop gaps, to be sure, but the old saying is that injuries are an opportunity for other players to step up. That would be the case here.
It seems inevitable that Sanchez is going to go down at some point this season. The Tigers can hope for 30 starts and 180 innings from him, but they realistically know that his body breaks down easily.
But even if Sanchez were to miss time, the Tigers have guys on the roster that can fill in. Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, and Michael Fulmer could all start the season at Toledo, but they can easily be recalled in an emergency. We don’t really know who Greene is. Was he the Yankee hurler who looked so good against the Tigers two years ago? Or is he the guy who started strong last year before he fell apart, physically and statistically? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Boyd is a lefty with a lot of potential, as he has shown recently in Lakeland. As for Fulmer, he could be outstanding.
Maybin will start the season on the disabled list. But the Tigers outfield depth is such that the team shouldn’t miss a beat. Will Wynton Bernard make the team? If so, will he prove that he is more than just a nice story, but can actually play in the major leagues? And there’s Collins, who can also fill in. The team is even going to test out Andrew Romine in the outfield in exhibition game action. Mike Aviles has also played the outfield in his career.
Injuries are a part of the game. But the way things are set up on the Tigers’ roster this year, and given the spare parts readily available at Toledo, the hope is that Detroit will buckle, but not break, should a player go down.
Unless, of course, they start dropping like flies…
And if Miguel Cabrera breaks a leg or something, well…