Hot bat keeps Jim Adduci in fight for spot with Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Port St. Lucie, Fla. — You look at it one way and the odds again seemed stacked against Jim Adduci starting the season on the Tigers’ 25-man roster.

He turns 33 in May, he plays outfield and first base and the Tigers are in a rebuilding phase. With first-year starters at third base (Jeimer Candelario) and second base (Dixon Machado), one of the utility spots likely will go to an infielder (Alexi Amarista, Niko Goodrum or Ronny Rodriguez).

In the outfield, the Tigers have invested the first pick of the Rule 5 draft on young Victor Reyes and they are two years deep into the development of JaCoby Jones. If there is going to be a fourth outfielder, you’d think one of those two younger players would have a leg up.

But Adduci just keeps hitting and hitting, and you start to envision ways he could make the club. That manager Ron Gardenhire is giving him some extra reps at first base tells you he’s thinking the same thing.

“I want to see what he can do,” Gardenhire said Saturday. “I think he can play anywhere. I think that guy can hit. I really like his swing. So the more places you can be efficient at, it’s always good.”

Adduci, a left-handed hitter, rapped out two more hits on Sunday, one a two-out, RBI single against lefty Gio Gonzalez. He’s got seven hits in 16 at-bats with two home runs and five RBIs. The more he hits, the more the Tigers will contemplate ways to keep him.

“I will play anywhere,” Adduci said. “I want to do what is best for the team, but obviously, any opportunity I get, I will take.”

Playing first base is not completely foreign to him. In fact, it’s kind of a rite of spring.

“It seems like every spring they put me at first base and then I don’t play there in the season,” he said, with a laugh. “But it’s good because the time I do spend there, I have an idea of what I am doing. Just basically trying to get up to the speed of the game being that close to the action.”

He’s been in professional baseball since 2004 and over his career, including his time in Korea, Mexico and the Dominican, he’s played 71 games at first base. He’s played seven games at first base in the big leagues with Texas.

“It was the same thing in Texas,” he said. “They had a pretty good idea what I could do in the outfield, so they tried me at first base and I played it until I got called up. Wherever they need me, I will play.”

Gardenhire said earlier in camp that during his time with the Twins, he’d at times keep veteran bench players over younger ones at the start of the season, even if it was clear a younger player would probably end up playing most of the year in the big leagues.

“It gets down to this,” he said. “Rather than starting a season sitting on the bench watching somebody else play, isn’t it sometimes better for some of these younger guys to start down there (at Triple A), get some at-bats and then bring them up a little later? Some of these guys are going to be here this year, we know that.

“I’m just throwing out scenarios here, but you want to give the other guy a chance to get some at-bats and get their swings, rather than sitting on the bench and watching somebody else start off.”

So, again, are the odds long against Adduci? Probably. But the more he hits, the shorter the odds get.

“I enjoyed my time here last year,” he said. “I started out in mini-camp and I was able to contribute. I am thankful for that. I’d be happy to be back. I enjoy this organization. They’ve always just told me, ‘Go compete.’ That’s what I want as a player.”