Leyland talks Smyly, Porcello, Dirks, Boesch, Garcia, Peralta at Hens Fandemonium

The 2013 Tigers winter caravan is unofficially underway with the Toledo Mud Hens Fandemonium and the West Michigan Whitecaps Winter Banquet. Here in Toledo, Jim Leyland has had his interview, his first with the local media since the winter meetings a month and a half ago. And as usual, he touched upon a lot of topics:

  • Leyland correctly figures he’ll be asked more about the closer situation than anything else this week, and he said he’ll be following Bruce Rondon while he works this spring. One thing he’ll be trying to do is get an idea how he reacts to save opportunities, especially how he reacts after a bad outing. That, he said, will be the key to how he handles the job when the season begins. He’s hoping that opening the season on the road in Minnesota will allow him to get a save opportunity in without the pressure of the home crowd on him.
  • Leyland suggested he could ease Rondon in on the job. “We’ll give him an opportunity,” Leyland said. “We’re not going to get crazy with it. Hopefully he’ll save a couple, and if he looks real good, save another one, and if he looks a little fragile, maybe use someone else for a day and maybe break him in. It’s tough to do that with a closer, but I think you just use common sense and play it by ear.”
  • Leyland set the stage for a competition between Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation assuming the Tigers don’t make a move. “Smyly’s really good. I really like him, but Porcello’s really good too,” Leyland said. “I just wouldn’t be saying just turn the job over to Smyly automatically. Let’s just see what happens. Competition is great. I love competition.”
  • Leyland also suggested that the loser in the starting competition would have a spot open in the bullpen if he has his way. “Right now, if Smyly was the starter, as we stand right now, Porcello would be some sort of safety valve for us in the bullpen,” Leyland said. “If Porcello’s the starter, Smyly would be the left-hander in the bullpen right now, most likely, unless something would come up where they’d want him to go out and pitch more. That’s a nice luxury, but that’s a simple one. That’s not hard at all. I know we’ve got six. We probably don’t have seven right now.”
  • Another competition is going to be in left field, where Brennan Boesch (again, if the Tigers don’t make a move) will get his shot to beat out Andy Dirks. “I think you’re going to see Boesch and Dirks competing,” Leyland said. “I think that’s great. Brennan Boesch has done some pretty good things. Andy Dirks has done some pretty good things. So as this team stands right now, let’s compete.”
  • Leyland on Avisail Garcia’s situation in camp: “Well, I’ll put that one as an I-don’t-know,” Leyland said. “He hasn’t done very well in winter ball. He hasn’t hit very good. First of all, I’ll preface it by saying he’s a terrific prospect with the potential maybe to be a star player. And I think what we’ll have to decide, my boss will let me know, if he doesn’t want to take him and play him part time and not get enough at-bats. Obviously, he’s not going to be the everyday left fielder, most likely, at least not right now. So that’ll be a decision: Will he be that extra right-hander to platoon a little bit out there, or would we rather him play at Toledo and get a lot of at-bats? I don’t really know the answer just yet.”
  • Leyland stopped short of saying Dirks would be an everyday player, citing a concern about wearing him down. “I think you’d be pushing it to say that you could play him every day right now,” Leyland said. “I mean, I could, but you might get better results playing him most of the time. If him and Boesch compete for that spot in left field, who knows? Let’s open up the competition.”
  • Leyland sounded encouraged by the reports about Jhonny Peralta’s offseason work in south Florida. “Peralta’s going to look real good when he comes in,” Leyland said. “Peralta’s got a chance to play good.”
  • When asked if Boesch has a clean slate this year after a 2012 season to forget, Leyland said, “We all come in with a clean slate. Every one of us. Nobody care that we swept the Yankees.”
  • Leyland is not concerned about losing Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and (likely) Omar Infante to the World Baseball Classic.

20 Comments

Competition, competition, competition!! Let’s have some competition!!! For the 5th starter, for LF, for the roles on the bench, for jobs in the bullpen. Let’s not give any young player a certain job until we see them for four weeks in Lakeland. Remember Scott Sizemore?? Let them do it on the field. Let’s see Worth and Kobernus in the OF a few times. Maybe one of them can be the fourth OF. Let’s see Nick Castellanos at 3B and in the OF. We are on a mission but must proceed with caution. Beware injuries in spring training. Go get’em Tigers!!!!

If you have a new young player, why would play them in an unfamiliar position? Plus, we have several back up outfielders, so Worth & Kobernus NEED to remain in the infield.

Sounds familiar.

very glad to hear that all 6 of our “starters” are going to be going north. I am excited about how porcello could blossom as an excellent long man. Lets be honest, JV has about bum 1-2 starts a year, Max 4-7, Doug 3-4, Sanchez ?, Smyly ?. So lets just say 12-20 times where an excellent long-man could win you the game. that’s a big role on the club, how man clubs have an excellent long man?

I’m also happy to hear of the plan for the 6th starter to be in the pen. Other than that, I’m not a big fan of these competitions. It usually results in someone not getting enough reps in ST. Dirks and Boesch, both LH hitters, competing….for what, exactly? The loser goes to the minors? Boesch does some hitting in Florida so Dirks isn’t starting, even though he proved himself capable of it already? If that’s the case, I hope they can trade Boesch. And are we hearing the beginning of another “wears down” tag, this time applied to Dirks?
My philosophy is to keep the competition to a minimum. A two-time playoff team should know who their guys are going to be.

I agree, Rich. The LF job should be Andy’s to lose. And it should not be lost in ST. ST means very little. You could make a list a mile long of great ST performances that did not carry over to the regular season. BB had a job last year and he lost it with his performance in the regular season and that is why they went and signed Tori. I hope BB has a good spring so we can trade him for value. But at this point we should know what we are and what our lineup should be.
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Go Tigers.
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— Bob

Speaking of lineups, I chuckle every time I pore over the first 3 hitting slots for the Tigers. As much as JL and the fanbase fret over going righty-lefty, there should be plenty of angst to go around with an order of Jackson, Hunter and Miggy.

except miggy has untypical splits, being harder on righties….

Because LHPs dont need to pitch to him since the next batter is LH.RHPs have no option but die with him

Righty-lefty is just a bonus, not something to fret over. It’s like if your spouse also happens to like baseball. Not a deal breaker, but nice to have.

very nice to have

First three? Try a first five of Jackson, Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez… if that doesn’t cause American League pitchers to wake up in a cold sweat, I don’t know what would.

Sorry This was meant as a reply to Rich.

Also, Fielder is a lefty and V-Mart swings from both sides.

I agree, but I was sure taken to task last season when I suggested going with consecutive righties. I felt like I had broken one of the 10 commandments. In fact, I recall pointing out in my defense examples like the Angels, who would slot 6 righties at a time.

from ESPN: Atlanta Braves have agreed to a trade to acquire outfielder Justin Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Randall Delgado, infielder Martin Prado and minor leaguers Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill

So that means we would have had to give up what?

Don’t know, but I am not sold on Upton. 2 of his last 3 seasons have been like what DY put up last year and you know how happy that made people here. Plus, It sounds like he has baggage issues.

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