Marte makes case to stick when Miggy returns

Marte makes case to stick when Miggy returns

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers are eagerly awaiting the return of Miguel Cabrera from the disabled list, possibly this weekend. Jefry Marte might give them pause on a decision for who to send out to open a roster spot.

The Tigers went 17 innings without a run after Marte homered Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park against the Red Sox. The run that ended the drought was scored by Marte on a Rajai Davis sacrifice fly for Tuesday's lone run in a 6-1 loss to the Royals.

Detroit has eight hits through two games this series, and Marte has half of them, including two of its three extra-base hits. He has put on a defensive display at first base that overshadows his inexperience there. In a series where nearly everything has gone wrong, he's the one player who has had things going almost entirely right.

Once Cabrera returns, however, Marte could be a man without a role.

"He'll play [Wednesday] for sure," manager Brad Ausmus said, giving Marte the nod for the series finale.

Marte was called up the day Cabrera went on the DL, providing a right-handed bat to play against left-handed pitching. He platooned with Marc Krauss for a few weeks, then Alex Avila and Andrew Romine. He didn't get his first start against a right-handed pitcher until he faced Johnny Cueto last week at Comerica Park. If he starts Wednesday, he'll have started three consecutive games against righties.

He started out 4-for-24 with a double and a home run in his first 11 games, four of them starts, until a three-hit game in Baltimore on July 31. He's 9-for-21 since then with three doubles and two home runs.

"Right now, he looks a lot better than he did a week ago," Ausmus said. "He looked like he was out of sync a little bit when we were at home. He looks much smoother now."

If he sticks on the roster past Cabrera's return, it would almost surely have to include playing time at third base, his natural position. Nick Castellanos has struggled so far in August, but is coming off a six-homer, 20-RBI July.

If Marte returns to Triple-A Toledo, it'll be the roster situation that does him in.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.