TigsTown MLN: New Additions, More Wins?

Seemingly overnight, the Mud Hens have seen a huge jump in the power they have in their lineup, thanks to a couple demotions as well as a long awaited promotion from an impressive youngster. Could these additions finally help get the ‘Hens over the hump and pass Indianapolis in the standings?

First the addition of Carlos Pena added a talented bat that had likely become simply overwhelmed at the big league level and needed some time away from the big league pressure. The move seems to have worked so far, as Pena is hitting .323 since the demotion, including slugging .462.

The team has added a couple more players since though. First, Marcus Thames was optioned to Toledo, after struggling in limited appearances off the bench for Detroit. Thames' struggles coupled with manager Alan Trammell's desire to have a left handed bat off the bench as well as another glove capable of moving around in the outfield likely resulted in the change that brought up Alexis Gomez and sent down Thames.

The final move was one that was likely a long time in the making; the promotion of outfielder David Espinosa from AA Erie to Toledo. After spending all of '04 in Erie and hitting .299/.397/.481 through the first two-plus months of action, it was time Espinosa received a new challenge.

Unfortunately, while Espinosa is an extremely talented player, where his future lies exactly with the organization is tough to gauge. Espinosa is a hitter that focuses primarily on patience and contact, which unfortunately doesn't translate into a lot of power. His power numbers were helped by the hitter friendly Jerry Uht Park, and they'll likely suffer moving to the more spacious Fifth Third Field.

The other problem is one that doesn't just apply to the Tigers, but rather Espinosa's future as a baseball player. As he's filled out physically, Espinosa has grown out of the infield, and then out of centerfield, forcing him to a corner. The problem lies in the fact that teams desperately need power out of their corner outfield spots, and many can't afford to place a hitter such as Espinosa in one of those spots.

Can Espinosa become a productive big league hitter? Without a doubt. But can he figure out a way to make it so that he'll be in the lineup on an everyday basis? That'll be his challenge in Toledo. And he'll get plenty of time to figure it out, as the Tigers certainly don't have a shortage of average outfielders that could take a roster slot.

And one final benefit the team has had is the addition of Wilfredo Ledezma (combined with not losing one of their starters). It was originally assumed that Sean Douglass was going to be called up this past weekend to get a shot in the Tigers' rotation, but the rain delay earlier last week against San Diego left Jason Johnson pitching just two innings, allowing him to pitch on short rest, and then the team elected to use Mike Maroth on short rest and keep the roster spot open, at least this weekend when the problem will arise again. Of course, despite Douglass's excellent outing on Sunday, the bullpen lost the game for Toledo in extra innings.

But as stated before, the Tigers are not capable of lasting forever without having a fifth starter (unless they attempt an experiment similar to what Colorado tried last year and going with only four starters while limiting their pitch counts). So unless the Tigers surprise everyone and deal for a starter, Douglass will likely be getting the call up to Detroit to face the Diamondbacks in Arizona.


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