Former Prospects in Search of Roster Spots

OF Andres Torres and C Brandon Inge both came up through the Tigers farm system with much fanfare, as highly-rated prospects at their respective positions. However, neither took full advantage of their opportunity, and almost became forgotten men. But now, each has made a serious push thusfar in Spring Training, trying to get their way back onto the team – the hard way.

Brandon Inge was one of the Tigers top prospects for many years. However, after being handed the starting position behind the plate, Inge practically tried to give the job back. The defense that he was heralded for wasn't quite up to snuff, and his .198 career batting average was nothing to brag about – but rather, something to be embarrassed about. Coming into 2004, Inge was still projected to be the starter, that is, until the Tigers went out and signed Ivan Rodriguez to a 4-year deal. Suddenly, the Tigers had signed a future hall of famer as well as a veteran backup (Mike DiFelice), and Inge quickly fell out of sight.

Inge however, took the signings in stride, and while disappointed, pushed forward and volunteered his services at other positions. Since, the Tigers have tried Inge out at Third Base and in Centerfield, and he has now taken groundballs at Shortstop and Second Base as well. While his performance at the plate is still a concern – his Spring Training batting average of .364 gives hope that he could become a respectable hitter off the bench.

On the other side of the spectrum, OF Andres Torres was also a highly regarded prospect, but never got an extended shot with the Tigers. He struggled in brief appearances, and the Tigers acquired OF Alex Sanchez midseason in 2003, and Torres quickly fell off the radar screen. His stock fell so far that this past offseason he was taken off the Tigers 40-man roster and replaced with fellow (and younger) speedster OF Nook Logan.

The demotion seemed to give Torres new motivation, and he came to camp (in January to boot) more determined than ever to earn his way back onto the roster. Through the first month of Spring Training, Torres has done everything possible to earn the backup Centerfielder position, going .375 with 2 Doubles, 3 Triples and 7 RBI.

While there is still no guarantee either player will make the final roster cut, both have turned heads this spring with their performances. Each still has their downfalls (Torres is trying to crack a crowded Outfield, there's still no guarantee Inge can play up the middle or hit for that matter), but have taken their once dwindling future and given their baseball career another chance in the majors.


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