Left field lone piece of Tigers' lineup missing

Left field lone piece of Tigers' lineup missing

Left field lone piece of Tigers' lineup missing
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers have a clear lineup at eight different positions now that Torii Hunter is taking over in right field. The one exception is left field, where the division of playing time depends on who's there.

As the Tigers finished up what team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski described as a busy first day of talks at the Winter Meetings, left field wasn't any clearer than it was last week.

Andy Dirks will probably be one of the left fielders. Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos could be another, but Dombrowski made it clear Detroit won't keep either of them in the big leagues just to take the short end of a platoon.

It does not sound like free agent Scott Hairston would be an option, though Dombrowski didn't mention him by name. Dombrowski made it clear he will not talk about specific free agents, even his own, but his outlook on what a potential free-agent signing would look like did not sound like the deal Hairston is expected to get.

The Tigers have been rumored to be interested in Hairston, a longtime lefty killer who batted .263 with 25 doubles, 20 home runs and 57 RBIs in 398 plate appearances this past season for the Mets. One report suggested the Tigers have offered the 32-year-old Hairston a two-year contract.

Dombrowski, however, said Monday evening that the Tigers have not offered any free-agent outfielder a multi-year contract.

"No, we have not," Dombrowski replied.

Dombrowski did not sound particularly inclined to offer any free-agent outfielder a multi-year contract. He wants somebody to push his highly-touted rookies, maybe provide insurance for them, but by no means block them.

"Can you [go with a multi-year deal]? I guess you can. But are we looking to do that? No," Dombrowski said. "It depends on who the player is. I mean, if you think it's somebody that's so solid for you that it's a definitive move for you, that's one thing. I think ideally you're looking for short term."

Dombrowski reiterated the role for Garcia or Castellanos would have to be greater than the role for a right-handed-hitting platoon outfielder. But he doesn't want to preclude it.

"You're not going to ideally have them [just] for 40 games to hit," Dombrowski continued, "but do they earn anything more than that? Let's say you sign Player X for one year at $2 million. Well, then, Castellanos and Garcia, they don't have a chance. Maybe that's better, maybe it's not, but they're talented enough that we feel that it's not out of the question that one of them could earn some playing time in Spring Training.

"I'm not saying that we're counting on it, but we're also not saying it can't happen, so that's what we constantly weigh, depending upon who the player is that we're talking about. The last couple years, we've had a hard time coming up with a right-handed bat."

Garcia will be judged in part on how he fares in winter ball. He entered Monday batting .273 (6-for-22) with a double and an RBI for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan League.

The judgment on Castellanos will fall almost entirely on how he performs in spring camp. His performance in the Arizona Fall League showed he was "out of gas," as Dombrowski put it, but he still drew praise from talent evaluators, including the MLB Scouting Bureau.

"He needs some time off," Dombrowski said, "but everybody thinks the guy's going to hit like crazy. This is not just our reports. We're talking about a bureau report that we get that [says] some people think the guy's going to be an impact bat almost immediately. That was their words: Impact bat."