Thoughts from Leyland’s busy arrival

Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn’t usually arrive here in Lakeland until the a day or two before the first official workout. The fact that Leyland reported Thursday, 2-3 days earlier than usual, was a big surprise. The fact that he did it in good spirits said a lot.

“I can’t say I’ve ever looked forward to a spring as much as this one,” Leyland said.

He said that soon after he said this: “I have a lot of business to take care of — big business.”

Leyland has a good team, and he knows it. He also knows he has a team that has a lot of potential issues to work out if they’re going to be really good, and a lot of questions to answer. What to do with Brandon Inge was already on the list. His move to second base adds a whole new facet to that.

Inge has never played second base in the big leagues, or the minors. He was a shortstop in college. He has demonstrated enough times that he’s a natural athlete, but even for him, this is a new one. And he’ll be trying it at age 34.

All he learned on the left side of the infield, he’s going to have to think in reverse. He’ll have to learn to turn the double play again, only on the blind side. He’ll have to know to cover the bag on relays from left field. He’ll have to develop a working knowledge with Prince Fielder on who goes for ground balls in the hole on the right side.

Inge’s athleticism, even at his age, will get him through quite a bit of this. He’s going to have to learn some more to really make it stick.

Oh, and he has to hit.

Keep in mind, this idea came from Inge. His agents knew about it and discussed it with the Tigers as well. It isn’t out of financial reasons; he has $6 million coming this year ($5.5 million salary, plus $500,000 buyout) no matter what happens from here. This is him trying to find a role.

Huge challenge? You bet. Impossible? I’m learning my lesson not to say that around the Tigers this winter, and I wouldn’t have said it here anyway.

In any case, what do the Tigers have to lose? They’re paying him the same either way, and Leyland said he’ll get Ryan Raburn the games he needs at second. Ramon Santiago will lose the most, but as Leyland pointed out, he has no question whether Santiago can be ready at second.

Believe it or not, there were other tidbits coming out of Leyland’s interview Thursday:

  • Leyland gave a target on Miguel Cabrera’s weight: “I want him at about 255.” Last reports suggested Cabrera will report at around that weight. Leyland suggested that’s about the weight he carried a few years ago. “I think that retains all his strength,” Leyland said, “plus gets him more quickness.”
  • Leyland said he’ll monitor how Cabrera is doing at third base.
  • Expect a lot more talk about increased intensity in early camp workouts, especially for the defense. Leyland wants to get closer to game speed than usual so that he can prepare Cabrera and Inge for what they might see.
  • Both Leyland and pitching coach Jeff Jones reiterated Thursday that they don’t want their fifth starter candidates treating this camp like a competition. “Don’t think of spring training like you’re trying to make the team,” Leyland said. “Think of spring training like you’re preparing yourself to get in the best possible shape to get ready to pitch wherever you’re supposed to pitch.”
  • Leyland’s reasoning on this: “Sometimes you don’t see the real guy if they know that they’re in that position. They go out first outing, they give up two or three runs and [they think], ‘Well, I’m done. I’ve got no chance to make it.'”
  • Another reminder from Leyland that Clete Thomas has a chance to make the team: “He’s an interesting guy for me who certainly hasn’t been written off by me. What’s he going to look like coming back healthy? This guy was a good player. … I think Thomas is a good, exciting player. I’ve always liked what he can do.”

12 Comments

Well, I have not posted in a while but first of all, thank you Jason. I really like your blog and read everything. Second, thanks Jim Leyland. I do not always agree with your style but I said if the 2011 Tigers made the playoffs I would mention you by name even though you can be a SOC. Marty, my wife is also a teacher and Spring Break is the 1st week of April. We always go to Marco Island FL and miss the Tigers in Lakeland and sometimes the home opener in Detroit. They say Prince is 275 and Miguel should be 255. I wonder what Delmon weighs? Inge at 2nd. Hmmmm.if he can hit. 42 and sunny in GR. Feels like Spring. Go Tigers, 2012!!! –Dave

was assuming that Santiago would play 2b vs RHP and Raburn vs LHP. it seems to me that Inge would best be spot started vs LHP which would take ABs from Raburn not Santiago.
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don’t see Inge as being a good fit on this roster…unless Cabrera cannot handle 3b. ideally, his roster spot would be filled by a good defender, with position versatility, who could either be a solid pinch runner or hitter. also to be considered is, after all these years, will Inge accept being a bench guy without driving the manager crazy? one of the hardest tasks Leyland may have this spring is giving Inge the news that he hasn’t made the team.

in one of Jason’s tweets, he points out that Inge’s career statistics most closely follow Damion Easley. Easley did hit .240 at age 35 and was able to play 3 more seasons because he could play all over the infield and even the outfield in a pinch, still had some pop in his bat, and made consistent contact at the plate.

I don’t particularly welcome Inge thrusting himself into the 2B equation. He can’t hit as well as Raburn or even Santiago. Inge could probably best work as a sort of jack-of-all-trades super-sub. If at all.

“I can use (Ryan) Raburn in left and use Delmon (Young) at DH, and vice versa”.So Dirks, Santiago and Worth lose playing time( or the spot in the roster) . Not to mention that Young thinks he can not handle DH duties

I am disturbed when I hear that Leyland says things like he wants to see Inge succeed at 2b. How does that make Raburn and Santiago feel? Why does Inge get all this preferential treatment? You have 2 guys that can already play the position and provide their own unique style of offense and you want to experiement with a 34 year old who has never played there and and puts his own bat in the bat crack far too often.
I thought the Tigers had gotten over this giving of jobs to people when they learned to become a godd team/machine..
I was never satisfied with the 2B alternatives this year thinking we realy needed to pick up a solid player for that position but did come around to accepting it once I knew the 3B job wasn’t also going to be platooned.
As usual Ramon will get short shrifted. If you want to talk about rewarding Tiger loyalty I think it should be directed to Ramon rather than the way it seems to go year after year.

It’s a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Santiago has been here nearly as long as Inge, but he goes about his business quietly, knowing full well he’s better than many of the guys they’ve had play in front of him, yet he’s always ready to play on a daily basis. The perfect team player. Then there’s Raburn with his “aw shucks, I’m just glad to be here” attitude. Kelly seemed to give no thought to what the Fielder acquisition did to his own situation, instead demonstrating excitement over how the team was improved. Then you have the squeaky wheel, Mr. Inge.
Look at it this way: most of us have played on a team at some level, so how would you like it if some less than talented teammate got in the manager’s ear about taking YOUR position? For those that say there’s no harm in letting Inge try, consider that. A team’s balance can be upset quite easily. Or any workplace.
This is a bad idea. And it has nothing to do with taking sides in an Inge debate.

I wish Victor were around. Now, more than ever. Already, I’m thinking Leland is nuts.

From what ive watched and read ramon santiago is a class act. He is the kind of team player every coach wants to have on his bench ready for any oppourtunity to help his team. However you also have a player(inge) with superior range but slightly inferior batting average that hits often times when others on his team falter and in playoffs. I say let him tryout. If he can suitably cover 2nd base than thats great we know he is a gamer. Inge’s knowledge of the game is reported to be 2nd only to cabrera. Although one distinct missplay haunts my memory. That leaves santiago as spot start 2nd and short. He is fantastic doing that. Now raburn being bumped out of 2nd is just fine with me. He appears better in the outfield anyways.

What makes you think Inge’s range is better than Santiago’s? He certainly doesn’t hit as well. And there is certainly NO room for someone that complains when a better player is brought in to take his place!

Inge can backup at 2B and 3B. Let raburn backup at LF.

I think the loyal Inge fans may have to accept the inevitable sooner than later.

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