April 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Tigers season preview: Breaking down the defense

New Tigers shortstop Adam Everett isn't expected to hit much, but his glove is highly regarded. (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)

The Tigers made changes, most notably on the left side, and unlike last year, players knew where they were going to play. From Day One, there was less turmoil.

This year's team has a chance to be solid defensively. With a look at each position player, here's why.

Gerald Laird, catcher

 Whether it's been Pudge Rodriguez or Brandon Inge, quickness has been a trademark of Tigers catchers. Laird is stockier, and while he might not look as quick, he'll measure up. The first play of spring was a topper in front of the mound. Laird got to the ball, threw out the runner and just like that served notice that he can handle the position.

Matt Treanor, catcher

He spent 10 years in the minors, but ever since high school, Treanor has had a big-league arm. "I remember his throws to second after I warmed up to start an inning," said Mike Hessman, a teammate at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. "They were knee-high lasers all the way." Time has gone by, but Treanor's throws are still laser-like.

Miguel Cabrera, first base

Cabrera began last season as the Tigers' third baseman and the Tigers convinced themselves he could handle it. When it turned out he couldn't, Cabrera was moved to first base. Good move. Maybe even a great one. Cabrera is quick around the bag, has good hands, and looks like he's made that challenging throw to second his whole career.

Placido Polanco, second base

The Tigers have no worries here defensively. Polanco is a sure-handed second baseman who doesn't make many errors. In 2007, he made none en route to winning a Gold Glove. His range factors were still in keeping with what they've always been and turning a double-play continues to be a strong suit.

Adam Everett, shortstop

The best that can be hoped for is for Everett to have the kind of year in 2009 for the Tigers that he had for the Astros in 2006. That was the year he played in 149 games, starting 146 of them, but made only seven errors. Everett had shoulder problems last year, so his one year with Minnesota was far from his best.

Brandon Inge, third base

No more catching for Inge, he's back at third to stay. He reads the ball correctly and quickly off the bat, and rarely is betrayed by his footwork. His arm is strong and accurate. If anything, when he makes a mistake, he throws high, not low. Inge is happy to be back at third and the Tigers are happy to have him there.

Ramon Santiago, infield

Every time Santiago plays he ends up providing a reminder of why he's valuable. A ground ball goes into the hole, Santiago retrieves it and makes a strong throw to first to get the runner. His arm is big-league, and his range is good, though not eye-opening. He handles all duties at short efficiently -- and at second as well.

Carlos Guillen, left field

Talk about consistency: Guillen was good, but not great at shortstop; good, but not great at first base; good, but not great at third: and now that he's going to be the starting left fielder, the Tigers hope for the same out there.He made some difficult catches in spring training and it appears Guillen's good instincts will prevail.

Curtis Granderson, center field

There was a time when there was speculation Granderson might top out only as an adequate-to-good outfielder. So much for speculation. Granderson gets excellent jumps, doesn't get fooled by big swings, and knowing the trickery the gaps of Comerica Park can play on an outfielder, he's become adept at hauling down fly balls over his head.

Magglio Ordonez, right field

He's never won a Gold Glove, and probably never will. But if there were such an award as an Iron Glove, he would never have been a candidate for that, either. Ordonez is better than a capable right fielder. Not blessed with speed, he moves well laterally for fly balls, especially toward the foul line and he has an accurate, medium-strength arm.

Marcus Thames, outfield

Nobody on the Tigers has worked harder to improve defensively than Thames. Then again, nobody had farther to go when he began. Thames throws better than he did, moves back on a ball better than he used to, and has made many a fine catch on dying fly balls in front of him. His read of the ball isn't as fast as some, but he's come a long way.

Josh Anderson, outfield

The Tigers made it clear when they acquired Anderson they regard him as more than just an adequate outfielder. They like the way he plays defense. He's basically a three-in-one package: A left-handed hitter off the bench, a potential pinch-runner because of his speed, but an outfielder who's capable of playing any of the three starters a rest.

Jeff Larish, infield

He's certainly worked hard to add another defensive position to his resume. Instead of just being a first baseman, Larish can also be used at third, and when it's the 25th spot of a 25-man roster for which you're competing, versatility is essential. It's a difficult position, but he has the arm to play there and he's improved his instincts there as well.

Tom Gage