Thursday postgame: Dlugach on a power trip
Call it the product of a healthy offseason workout program, or the gusty winds in Florida the last couple days, or finally rounding out the offensive side of his game, but the Tigers’ leading hitter so far is Brent Dlugach.
At the moment, in fact, he’s statistically one of the top hitters in the Grapefruit League, sharing the league lead in homers with at least four others.
Sure, they’re just two games in. But it’s fun to point out, especially when it’s somebody who has had so little of a chance to show what he can do in the big leagues.
The Tigers drafted Dlugach in 2004 as a defense-first SS out of the University of Memphis. He had middling offensive stats at pretty much every stop on his way through the Tigers farm system except for a short stint at Double-A Erie in 2007. It was short because a shoulder injury ended it.
Dlugach underwent shoulder surgery in 2007 and missed most of 2008 in recovery. His first full season post-surgery came last, and it came with a big jump to Triple-A Toledo, where they needed a shortstop.
What happened in all that time off, what actually helped him, he said, was that he spent most of the previous year in the gym working out. He was stronger physically than at any other point in his pro career, and he could fight off pitches and punch line drives better than before. The result was a Triple-A All-Star season with a .294 average, 36 doubles, nine home runs and 59 RBIs.
He’s even stronger this year, quite a bit stronger, after another offseason working out. Because more time has passed since shoulder surgery, he could do more upper-body work. He also put on quite a few pounds of muscle, which would take him over the 200-pound mark for his 6-foot-4 frame. That doesn’t make him a power hitter by any means, but it’s starting to look like he can hold his own.
“He’s doing fine,” Leyland said. “He’s strong. He’s a pretty big kid.
He’s got some strength.”
What the Tigers do with Dlugach is going to be interesting, moreso down the line than out of this camp. He has options left and the Tigers have a shortstop opening at Toledo, so unless Ramon Santiago or someone else is injured in camp, he appears set to open the season as a Mud Hen again. But the left side of the Tigers infield is up for free agency at season’s end, and with the jury still out on Tigers shortstop prospects, it’s conceivable another solid year could open some eyes. For this camp, though, he’s likely to see a little more time at second and third base while Gustavo Nunez and Audy Ciriaco are in camp.
That sure glove is still there, too, and he’s starting to show it at those other positions. After entering Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays at second base, he made a nice play on a one-hopper with the infield in.