Outfielder Brennan Boesch should be a near-lock to land a roster spot with the Tigers. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)
When spring training comes to an end and the Tigers head north to open the season, some players are going to ask the same simple question:
"What more could I have done?"
At least, that's the hope right now.
The Tigers' have their three starting outfielders set, with Andy Dirks, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.
After that, the waters get murky. There are plenty of options but few great ones.
Do they need a left-handed slugger? Maybe Brennan Boesch fits that bill.
Do they need a singles-hitting speedster? Take Quintin Berry.
A guy who can do a little bit of everything? Don Kelly or Jeff Kobernus might help there.
In an ideal world, all perform well during spring, making the decision difficult for president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland.
And then we have reality.
After just two exhibition games, Berry was sidelined by pain in his knee.
Boesch is not only battling a nagging oblique injury, he is coming off an ineffective 2012 season. He saw his first game action Wednesday against the Blue Jays.
Kobernus is completely unknown, has never played above Double A and was actually an infielder by trade before being shifted to the outfield.
Kelly is, well, Don Kelly. It's hard to get excited for someone who batted .186 last year.
Batting average may not be the best statistic to sum up a player's abilities, but you'd be hard-pressed to say .186 paints an inaccurate picture of Kelly's prowess.
The Tigers have all the options of a diner visiting a $2 buffet.
Young players offer alternatives
Meanwhile, Nick Castellanos, the top prospect and golden boy, batted .444 with a home run through his first 10 spring-training games.
It's easy to figure why fans might salivate at the idea of bringing the much-hyped kid north when faced with that kind of choice.
But, as has been written in this very newspaper, Castellanos' time will come.
When he arrives — and that will be sooner than later — he should offer an exciting boost to the club.
Avisail Garcia, a fellow young outfielder, should as well when he gets a little experience under his belt.
For now, allowing both players more time to develop in the minors is the right decision.
The Tigers do not need them right now. The team is easily the favorite to win its division and picked by many to make another nice postseason run.
Boesch should be a lock
But back to that two-dollar buffet.
It's hard to see the Tigers going north with any combination of Kelly, Kobernus and Berry as outfielders. The trio just overlaps too closely in what they bring to a club.
That means Boesch, nearly by default, ought to have a place at the table. If healthy, he can do what the others cannot: provide instant offense.
He'll lumber on the base paths and would be nobody's choice for a top defensive replacement, but his ability to hit for power earns him a spot on the roster.
If healthy, Berry remains a strong candidate to get the final outfield spot. He may not be a defensive wizard, but he does provide everything that Boesch can't.
That is to say, he gets on base, he's fast and fans like him.
But the balky knee, which has kept him out for more than a week (though he's expected to return Sunday), could sabotage his effort and leave the door wide open for Kobernus.
Add in that Kobernus is a right-hander, compared to the lefty-batting Berry, and it adds even more flexibility to the bench.
With a month left, plenty is subject to change.
For now, a healthy Boesch should be a near-lock in the outfield, with Berry and Kobernus battling to fill out the roster. Right now, the trio should be considered the favorites to make the team above the more-exciting prospects.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.
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