Saturday: Did Matt Tuiasosopo just win a big league job?
Officially, the Tigers didn’t name Matt Tuiasosopo to the Opening Day roster. It’s a little early for that. In fact, neither Dave Dombrowski nor Jim Leyland mentioned Tuiasosopo’s name when talking about the decision to send Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus back to the Nationals for $25,000. Still, you had to try to block out the background to avoid the sense that Tuiasosopo has an inside track on making the team.
Here’s what we know:
- Kobernus is out of the picture. And when Dombrowski and Leyland were asked to explain the reasoning for the move, the answer from both of them was that it became clear Kobernus wasn’t going to make the 25-man roster.
- Here’s what else Dombrowski said in regards to Kobernus: “We just think somebody else was ahead of him at this point.”
- Avisail Garcia is all but out of the picture. He isn’t expected to play in either of the next two days, and if the soonest he plays again is Tuesday, then it’s very possible the Tigers make their final decision before then. Leyland said he doesn’t have any meeting planned with Dombrowski yet, but that they could do it after they get back from Jupiter Monday night.
- Moreover, Leyland made it sound like Garcia’s running out of time. “It would be fair to say the timing of the injury probably put a little bit of a damper on him as far as breaking with the club,” Leyland said. “I think that’s just a common-sense thing. Now, could a miracle happen? I’d prefer not to see the headlines: ‘Garcia doesn’t make the team.’ That’s not the case. It’s just that his injury came at a time where it wasn’t the best of timing. I don’t want to make it sound like we don’t like Garcia or we sent him down. It’s just he’s probably not going to get enough time to break camp. Again, don’t etch that in stone, but I think that’s kind of common sense.”
- There are no other right-handed hitting outfield candidates left, unless you count infielder Danny Worth. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter already have starting spots.
- Dombrowski said he feels confident they can fill the right-handed hitting outfield role internally, though he didn’t say they would.
This is what we don’t know:
- Who is going to be out there on the market next week for the Tigers to acquire? Maybe Casper Wells doesn’t make the Mariners roster. Maybe the Tigers can parlay their depth in another spot, maybe an extra reliever, into an extra outfielder.
- How far away is Nick Castellanos? If a hot opening month in Toledo can get him to Detroit, how long will the Tigers need an extra right-handed hitting outfielder? Is he the in-case-of-fire-break-glass move if the Tigers struggle through April?
- What happens to the Tigers’ hope of having a good baserunner on their bench to run for Victor Martinez late in games? Kobernus was supposed to be able to fill both spots, though he didn’t steal a base all spring.
That last point is particularly big for the other open spot on the bench. If the Tigers still want a baserunner, Quintin Berry’s chances of making the team just got better. It’s not that Don Kelly and Danny Worth can’t run; they just can’t run like Berry.
Personally, I think there’s a real chance the Tigers add somebody at the end of Spring Training, like they did with Josh Anderson as a speedy outfielder at the end of camp in 2009 (no, it didn’t work out, but that’s not the point). Otherwise, they would have at least mentioned somebody by name. I also don’t think you cut Kobernus loose unless you actually do feel confident you can fill the spot with Tuiasosopo if you don’t get somebody else.
So, to answer the question that started all this: Did Tuiasosopo just win a big league job? Maybe.