The Tigers have a great set of utility players that, this season, have really started to shine through, both with some decent hitting and great performance on the field. I’ll start with Marcus Thames, who was the DH for the Tigers at the end of last year and generally filled the role well after Dimitri Young was let go. He’s also an outfielder capable of catching the ball and getting it back into the infield before any damage is done. In the off season and Spring Training he started playing first base which will allow an overworked Sean Casey to rest while still keeping a good bat in the order. Chris Shelton shined through early last year, but caved under the pressure, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see him unless Sean Casey is Injured.
Speaking of Injuries Vance Wilson should be back soon, which will add a very capable back up catcher and a heavy bat back into the off-the-bench pool of players. Rabello is a good enough catcher, with a lot of potential to hit the ball, but he is still hitting under .100, while it’s hard to judge a rookie who hasn’t appeared in many games, it’d have been more reassuring to see him hitting a few fore base hits.
Moving onto Utility Infielders Omar Infante is fairly impressive at center field, doing a good job with routine balls out his way and in getting on base when he’s at the plate. There’s no doubt that he’s a much better infielder and that if he was in the order regularly his average would be climbing with the rest of the team, but he, like Thames at first, does an adequate job. Moving on to Neifi Perez, a utility infielder picked up late last year as a perceived mistake on Leyland’s part is finally beginning to show through as a quality player. He’s had a few quality at-bats, including a rather surprising 3-run home run in Sunday’s game in Kansas City, and has made some shining plays in the infield proving that -when he needs to be- he can hold up for the guys being rested or whom are on the DL. he’s played Second and Third already -to my current recollection- this season and has not made any blunders at either position, and at least one sparkling play at second.
All in all the Tigers have a lot of talent coming off the bench, and Jim Leyland, while many are quick to second guess and criticize, has made some decisions that -in the long run- have and will continue to pay off.