Tigers Likely to Stick with Two Catchers

It's all but certain Detroit will open the season with no third catcher, as it did last year, but the complicating factor is that this season, both catchers will be in the lineup at the same time for most games.

Don Kelly has been mentioned as the emergency third catcher, as was Ryan Raburn a year ago and Brandon Inge before that, but Jim Leyland's faith in that is shown by the fact that the utility player had yet to appear behind the plate through two weeks of exhibition games.

"Real third," Leyland said when asked recently if Kelly was still the man behind Alex Avila and Victor Martinez. "We're not going to get carried away with that."

Kelly used his catcher's glove in the first couple of days when pitchers reported, but so far has only done limited bullpen work.

Martinez will catch against most left-handers while the southpaw-swinging Avila sits. Avila will be behind the plate in Leyland's lineup against right-handers, with Martinez serving as the designated hitter.

But what happens if Avila leads off the ninth inning of a tie game against a left-handed pitcher? Does Leyland bat for him, knowing that puts Martinez behind the plate for a bottom of a ninth or extra innings?

And if Avila hits, does Leyland pinch-run for him?

"I'll do whatever it takes to win the game," Leyland said. "But that's a very interesting question. It's going to come up.

"If we see it's a situation that happens too often, we might have to make an adjustment (about carrying a third catcher). But we will not do that at the start of the season. It will be fun for the fans second-guessing, which is fine."

Second-guessing goes with the territory as far as managers are concerned. What Leyland will worry about most is whether working around the two-catcher problem -- both of them in the lineup on most days -- will limit what he can do to try to win games.

If Avila shows he can hang in there against most left-handed pitchers, that will limit the times Leyland gets put in a bind. If Leyland has to bat for Avila in every late game, close game situation, that could be a problem.

Being forced to pinch-hit for pitchers because they have to enter the lineup when Martinez moves from DH to catcher won't bother Leyland, either. That would only be a problem in games that approach being doubleheaders in length.

"It's something I've stayed up a lot of nights this winter thinking about," Leyland said. "Right now, we want to utilize our roster a little bit more.

"It's interesting, though, because if you're in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day and you're tied in the ninth inning, and Alex leads off with a hit, do you run for him or do you not? It will be a lot of fun for people."

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