Inside Pitch: Addressing Shortstop

Sure, there are other positions that are going to need to be addressed, but the big problem that needs to be handled (and can be dealt with immediately) is looking to find the team's new everyday shortstop.

Now that catching is off Detroit's list of needs for 2008, it is likely general manager Dave Dombrowski will attack the problem of finding the Tigers' next shortstop.

Detroit needs two starting pitchers -- one if left-hander Kenny Rogers comes back -- but shortstop is a problem that Dombrowski can tackle right away, which is his style.

The decision to shift Carlos Guillen from short to first for 2008 -- a decision that has a tiny chance of being reversed if the club can't find a suitable shortstop -- has put the Tigers in the market for a slick-fielding middle infielder.

Detroit has deemed Ramon Santiago and Omar Infante not suitable for full-time duty at short.

Top free agents who figure to be available are David Eckstein and Omar Vizquel, the latter of whom has a little age on him. It is believed the Tigers would prefer a shortstop with greater range than Eckstein.

There is belief in some circles Detroit will seek to swing a deal with Atlanta or Pittsburgh, each of whom has two shortstops and might be willing to part with one.

The Pirates have Jack Wilson, whom the Tigers were believed to be pursuing last July, and the Braves have Edgar Renteria, who played for manager Jim Leyland in Florida. Renteria had a bad experience in his one American League season, with Boston.

Dombrowski's style is to target somebody and move quickly to get him. Getting a shortstop fits the profile.

--CF Cameron Maybin is the third-youngest player in the Arizona Fall League. Maybin hit .261 through his first six games in the league but with an on-base percentage of .346 and a slugging percentage of .565. Maybin, 20, was sent to the league after a late-season trial with Detroit showed he is not ready to handle major league pitching on an everyday basis. "Just get reps," was what Maybin said was his goal for the experience. "I've got to get reps." Only Blue Jays OF Travis Snider and Rangers SS Elvis Andrus, both 19, are younger than Maybin in the league.

--RHP Joel Zumaya didn't get enough of an apprenticeship as Detroit's closer-in-waiting last season, one of the reasons manager Jim Leyland wants RHP Todd Jones to come back. Zumaya missed three months recuperating from right middle finger tendon surgery, and that prevented the Tigers from giving him a chance to save games. "It's just a matter of when," Leyland said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with talking about Zumaya as the closer, because that's what we want eventually. I'm not sure the timing's right."

--DH Gary Sheffield still has more walks than strikeouts for his career, although his career whiff total did go above 1,000. Sheffield, recuperating from right shoulder surgery, has 1,377 walks in his career and 1,042 strikeouts. He is 28th on the all-time walk list and 192nd in most strikeouts for a career.

--LHP Kenny Rogers would need to win 11 games next season, if he comes back, to rank in the top 10 for most wins by a pitcher age 43 or over. Rogers was limited to 11 games last season and recorded three wins. His start to the year was delayed by surgery to take care of a blood clot in his left shoulder. Once he got going, he was sidelined for roughly a month with a sore left elbow. He won three games this year but 17 a year ago. Rogers, who becomes a free agent, will let Detroit know some time in November whether he plans to return next season or not.

--Dick Egan has been named a special assistant to general manager Dave Dombrowski, the team announced Oct. 18. Egan completed his 47th season in professional baseball in 2007, his sixth as a major league scout for the Tigers. Following a 13-season professional pitching career, Egan has served as both an amateur and professional scout, in addition to coaching at the major league level and managing at the minor league level. The Tigers also named Jim Olander a major league scout and added Scott Pleis to the organization as a national cross-checker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Players who reached 200 hits this year for the Tigers (Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco). It was the first time Detroit had more than one player with 200 hits since 1937, when four players did it.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know I still have a lot to learn, but I think I took a step in the right direction this year. I'm disappointed we didn't get to the postseason again, but I'm proud we played meaningful baseball in September." -- RHP Justin Verlander, who followed his 17-win Rookie of the Year 2006 season with an 18-victory 2007 campaign.

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