GM Al Avila sees Tigers depth paying off

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — In the first month of the season, the Tigers are far from where they want to be in October, but they’re off to a good start. They sit in first place in the American League Central, followed closely by the White Sox and Indians.

For general manager Al Avila, it’s a good point to take stock and look at what they’ve accomplished in the first 20 games. Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club meeting at Motor City Casino Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, Avila spoke of the team’s optimism heading into the season.

“Our team so far has performed as expected,” Avila said. “We knew we were going to have good starting pitching, be pretty good offensively and struggle a little bit with the bullpen — but we’re hoping to get on track.”

The Tigers (11-8) went into Wednesday night’s game on a three-game winning streak, including a 19-9 romp on Tuesday night over the Seattle Mariners. What might be more surprising about the Tigers’ start is that they’re doing it without several of their key players — including Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias, who are battling injuries.

More impressive is that they’re getting contributions from other players, which has boosted them in the past week.

That was due to some insight from Avila in bolstering the roster during spring training in an effort to add quality to the roster at more than just the top positions.

“We felt we had some depth that is going to sustain us for the remainder of the year, pitching and position player-wise,” Avila said.

“We made a point to go out and sign more minor-league free-agent players than we’ve ever had.

“We increased the budget and set rates to attract better guys.

“We went over budget in spring training because we had so many players.

“That’s helped us early on, with (reserve catcher John) Hicks, who was a waiver claim coming up and doing well, and (reserve outfielder) Jim Adduci coming up and doing well.”

Adduci has had two memorable games, going 3-for-4 on Sunday and following with a 3-for-6 performance on Tuesday, helping to plug the gap for starting center fielder JaCoby Jones (lacerated lip), who also has been shelved due to injury.

In three games, Hicks is hitting .545 (6-for-11) to help bolster the reserve corps — and that’s in line with Avila’s original plan.

“Some of our role players are stepping up and doing well,” he said.

“Any time you have injuries — every team has injuries — so what it takes is the next guy in line to do his job well until those guys come back.”