Thin bench will limit Tigers’ maneuverability in Pittsburgh

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Victor Martinez

Detroit – General manager Al Avila and his staff have a decision to make ahead of the Detroit Tigers’ three-game interleague series in Pittsburgh, which starts on Tuesday.

Presently, the Tigers are carrying 13 pitchers and just three bench players on their active roster. With National League rules in place, designated hitter Victor Martinez comes out of the lineup and becomes a fourth bench player.

But he no longer plays defensively, so he’s limited to one at-bat per game.

The Tigers are simply not constructed for National League rules. Avila has the off-day Monday to decide whether he thinks it’s worthwhile to adjust his roster – add a position player and send a pitcher down – for three games.

Manager Ron Gardenhire votes yes.

“The big thing about playing National League rules is the double-switching and all of those things,” he said. “We are going to be very limited on all that. If I had one more position player, it might make it work out easier. But we really don’t have that many options on the roster.”

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That’s the other side of the issue. If Gardenhire could hand-pick a position player to come up, it would be a multi-positional player – and there isn’t a player like that on the 40-man roster.

“An infielder would be really nice,” he said. “To have a second one of those guys (like Niko Goodrum) who could play all over. But we don’t have that. So it’s going to be what it is. We’ll do the best we can and just get through it.”

There are four older players in Toledo who would fit the bill – Ronny Rodriguez, Jim Adduci, Pete Kozma and Jason Krizan – but they aren’t on the 40-man roster. Dawel Lugo would be the only true option unless Avila was willing to adjust the 40-man – which isn’t likely.

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So Gardenhire will have at his disposal three bench players he can use defensively – backup catcher John Hicks, utility man Goodrum and outfielder Victor Reyes.

“I’ve played in the National League, some games can get real hairy when you start doing all those double-switches and things,” Gardenhire said. “We’re not going to be able to do all those things because we don’t have the package on the bench to do it.

“We’re just going to have to play it straight up. I’m guessing pinch-hitting for the pitcher in situations is about as good as we’re going to be able to do. One double-switch and that’s about all we’d be able to do.”

It's only three games and the Tigers don’t play another road interleague series until June 19-20, a two-game set in Cincinnati. Still, it's unsettling for a manager to go into a series with a limited arsenal.

Twitter @cmccosky