Bobby Higginson wasn't expecting it. Marcus Thames wasn't expecting it. Dmitri Young wasn't expecting it. The beat writers weren't expecting it. Bottom line, practically no one was expecting Higginson to kick off his 11th major league season with the Tigers. If he would continue his big league career, it'd be in another uniform.
But then Thursday rolled around, and manager Alan Trammell had an announcement to make, one that would shock (and upset) many within the clubhouse. Higginson had made the team, and will go north with the club as the backup corner outfielder.
When asked for a reason, Trammell cited Higginson's recent surge at the plate, in which he went a solid yet unspectacular 6-for-16. Trammell also liked Higginson's experience, as well as his solid defense and left-handed bat off the bench.
Keeping Higginson of course means that Thames, who hit well all spring once he got healthy, will be heading down to Toledo in a now crowded Mud Hens' outfield. Thames was visibly upset about the news, but possibly not even as much as some of the club's other veterans, like Dmitri Young.
But if Trammell was excited by the recent surge offensively by Higginson, he certainly didn't put those criteria to use when selecting his backup centerfielder. Despite being in the midst of an 0-for-19 slump, Nook Logan was selected as the club's backup centerfielder, over Alexis Gomez, who many felt had out-performed Logan down the stretch. With such a crowded outfield in Toledo, it's possible Gomez could find himself moving all the way down to Erie to get at bats.
Logan started off hot, but cooled significantly as spring rolled on. Nonetheless, Trammell cited Logan's speed and defense as the main reasons for keeping him.
And which of the three relievers of Doug Creek, Steve Colyer and Gary Knotts will make it? Well, continuing with head-turning moves, it will be none of the three. Creek was optioned to Toledo, while the process was started to place both Colyer and Knotts on waivers, which could very well end their runs with the Tigers.
So, who now for the long relief job? It's possible the Tigers will take another look at some players already moved out of big league camp – including Andrew Good and Jason Grilli, but at this point, it's impossible to predict. John Ennis and Craig Dingman, who struggled in Detroit's bullpen last year, could also factor in.
While there is obviously some truth to the fact that Higginson will give the team a left-handed hitting outfielder on the bench, it's hard to imagine Trammell's veteran loyalty didn't come into play in this situation. Meanwhile, Thames will once again be relegated to AAA duty, where he's already proven extensively he can hit the pitching.
As for the final relief spot, Trammell's decision should come by the end of the day Friday.
In any case, this is just another in a long line of interesting decisions by Trammell at the helm, now in his third year as the club's skipper. As always with choices like this one, only time will tell who will end up being right.