Hernan Perez could be set up for superutility role
The Tigers have had a superutility player on their roster for the bulk of the last six years, thanks to Don Kelly. They could be setting up Hernan Perez to be the next.
It might be Perez’s best shot to not only stick in the big leagues, but stay in the organization.
Perez has spent the past month with Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, but hasn’t played since Nov. 29 after injuring his knee in a collision. He’s expected to return to action this week, but he told Carlos Duarte of the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal that the Tigers want him playing some games in the outfield.
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed that request Monday, saying they want Perez to enhance his versatility and help his cause.
“He’s out of [minor-league] options, and we like Hernan a lot,” Dombrowski said, “so we thought it would be [good]. We know he can play second base, shortstop and third base, but we asked if he could take some fly balls to see how he does out there.”
Perez was already working out in the outfield before the injury, Tigers assistant GM Al Avila said. He has not started a game there yet, splitting his time between second and first base. He split most of his regular season at Triple-A Toledo between second and shortstop.
“We figured we would try to increase his flexibility, versatility, because we like Hernan,” Dombrowski said. “With how the club fits, maybe we’ll want him to play some outfield.”
The Tigers have counted on Don Kelly as a backup outfielder for years while also using him at first, second and third base. However, Kelly is a free agent after Detroit dropped him from the roster at season’s end. Both sides are open to a reunion.
If Kelly returns, it could set up a positional battle with Perez and others in which whoever doesn’t win the job has to be designated for assignment and would have to clear waivers before being assigned to Triple-A Toledo.
Kelly, who turns 35 on Feb. 15, is 11 years older than Perez, who will turn 24 in March. Despite the age, Kelly has the advantage of being a left-handed hitter, a trait the Tigers have in short supply on their bench. Perez, once a candidate last spring to fill the shortstop void in Detroit, is a right-handed hitter.