Tigers' Josh Wilson used to facing long odds
Lakeland, Fla. — It's not a particularly flattering or fair tag to put on somebody who has been in professional baseball since 1999 and has logged nine years of Major League service time with eight different teams.
But veteran infielder Josh Wilson was invited to the spring training by the Tigers as an organizational insurance policy. Starting shortstop Jose Iglesias is returning after missing last season with stress fractures in both legs, and the Tigers could lose one of the two players vying to be his backup.
"He can do a lot of things," manager Brad Ausmus said of Wilson. "He can play a lot of infield positions, he can play any infield position. But the reality is, we have other guys who can play shortstop if something happened to Jose."
Andrew Romine and Hernan Perez are battling to be the Tigers backup shortstop and utility player. Both players are out of minor league options. It's conceivable that whoever loses the battle will have to be moved or waived.
In Wilson, the Tigers have a capable veteran ready to fill that backup role. That is not, however, how Wilson is approaching this opportunity.
"My conversation with (assistant general manager) Al Avila when I came here was that I'd absolutely get an opportunity to play second base at Triple-A," said the 33-year-old Wilson. "That will be my job to lose, I guess. But for me, coming into camp, I want to make the team.
"Every team I've made coming out of spring training, I was never the guy slotted in for a spot on the roster. So I just show up, work hard and be ready to play. We will see what happens."
Wilson's career pretty much defines the term journeyman. After six years in the minors, he broke in with Florida in 2005. From there his journey went Washington, Tampa Bay, Arizona, San Diego, Seattle, back to Arizona, Milwaukee, back to Arizona for a third time and, last season, Texas.
Always a light hitter, he has a career fielding percentage of .959 with a total defensive runs saved above average of nine.
"Josh is a guy who has big league experience," Ausmus said. "He's played all four infield positions and he's even pitched."
Yeah, Wilson probably would rather that not be on his resume. He's pitched three innings in three games, giving up four hits and three runs. Wilson, unlike Perez and Romine, won't be taking any outfield reps, either.
"We have enough shortstops trying to play outfield," Ausmus said.
This isn't a one-last-shot attempt by Wilson, by the way. He feels like he has a lot of baseball left in him.
"This is my 17th (pro season) and I am still going," he said. "I hope to be able to add a few more. I am not ready to stop playing yet. The 17th is just one more. I hope I get above 20."
As it stands now, it is likely only two of these three players will make the opening day roster – Perez, Romine and outfielder Tyler Collins – although they are engaged in separate battles.
Perez and Romine are battling for the one utility spot and Collins has the inside track on the fifth outfielder job. However, as mentioned, Perez and Romine are out of options and both are taking outfield reps.
"There is conceivably a way you'd keep both utility guys," Ausmus said. "Being out of options does change the dynamic a little bit."
It is hard to imagine, though, the Tigers coming north without Collins' left-handed bat and power potential coming off the bench. Romine is a switch-hitter and Perez bats right-handed. Neither hits for much power.