There are no positional battles in the Tiger infield from second to third this spring (I’ll look at the first basemen in another post). It will be Placido Polanco at second, Carlos Guillen at shortstop and Brandon Inge at third with Omar Infante backing up all three positions. The biggest question in the infield (and perhaps the most important for the team this spring) concerns the health of Guillen.
Guillen injured his right knee late in 2004, underwent off-season surgery and was never totally healthy in 2005. After a near MVP caliber year in 2004, Guillen was in and out of the line-up all year long and wound up playing only 87 games. This, I think, was one of the biggest factors in a somewhat disappointing season for the Tigers last year. I believe a comeback by Guillen (even if he doesn’t hit for quite as much power as he did in 2004) might be the single biggest ingredient if the Tigers are to make substantial improvement this year.
The early news on Guillen is very positive. In Tom Gage’s article in the Detroit News this morning, Guillen claims to be 100%. One could chalk that up to spring training optimism but at no point last year did Guillen ever claim to be 100%. He admitted his knee was a problem all year long and his sporadic play showed it. Hopefully, the news will remain good when he starts playing regularly including games for
Beyond Polanco, Guillen, Inge and Infante, there are a few other players in camp who may be seen in
Shortstop Tony Giarratano may be ready defensively but a brief stint with the Tigers last summer showed that his bat has a ways to go. He’ll likely go back to
Other infielders in camp are Ramon Santiago (back from
But the big story here is Guillen. The health of Guillen’s knee will go a long way in determining how much the team will improve this year. So far, the news is good.