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Magglio's return to Detroit far from certain

Magglio's return to Detroit far from certain

DETROIT -- The Tigers have interest in Magglio Ordonez, and Ordonez has interest in staying with the Tigers. Starting Sunday, baseball's 2010 free-agent market opens up for other clubs to express their interest in Ordonez and the Tigers to pursue other options.

While the Tigers hit the open market in search of a run producer for the middle of their order, Ordonez's agent, Scott Boras, expects to gather interest in his client from several teams. So, if an Ordonez return to Detroit is going to happen, it isn't likely to happen quickly.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said he expected nothing quick in talks to bring back Ordonez, in part because of Boras' approach to offseason talks. Boras gave no sign that would suggest a faster timetable. He did, however, indicate he expects competition for Ordonez.

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"We've gotten a lot of early calls," Boras said. "I think with this marketplace, the right-handed hitters of that ilk, like Magglio, there's going to be a very strong demand for them."

Ordonez became a free agent once the Tigers declined his $15 million contract option for next season. It had been a vesting option, and almost surely would've been triggered, but he fractured his right ankle on a slide at home plate July 24. The resulting surgery ended his season with a .303 batting average, 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 84 games, a pace that would've left him with a 20-homer, 100-RBI season had he played out the full schedule.

How much of an impact Ordonez's ankle makes on his offseason remains to be seen. He'll turn 37 at the end of January, and Tigers fans witnessed Scott Sizemore's slow recovery from ankle surgery this past season. Boras, however, echoed comments Ordonez made to Venezuelan reporter Augusto Cardenas last month that his ankle is at 90 percent and strengthening.

"I think a lot is being made of a standard fracture, what a lot of orthopedic surgeons say is a minor fracture," Boras said. "There's no issue with flexibility, weight bearing, anything like that. It was really just a very simple fracture. It simply took some time to heal. This was not a complicated event. There really will not be any time frame where teams will wait and see if he has any trouble performing."

There's a huge advantage for Ordonez in this market if he's viewed as a full-time outfielder. The outfield market drops off significantly beyond top free agents Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, unless there are teams that see Adam Dunn, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui as full-time outfielders. Ordonez was an everyday right fielder at the time of his injury, and while his short strides towards fly balls looked uncertain at times, his routes were generally true. The one question would be the ankle, and Boras doesn't expect it to be an issue.

Ordonez hinted last month to Cardenas that he might elect to play winter ball, possibly to prove his return to health. Boras said he doesn't expect Ordonez to play -- not that he can't, but that he shouldn't.

So where does this leave Ordonez and the Tigers? The market will likely determine that, on both sides. And it probably won't do so anytime soon.

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.

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