Ramon Santiago started in Friday night’s 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox. And Danny Worth was called up from Triple-A Toledo to take Sizemore’s spot on the Tigers’ active roster. But manager Jim Leyland apparently has someone else in mind for the job.
Following Friday’s game, Leyland told reporters that Ryan Raburn would be the starting second baseman. Raburn has started five games at second this season, as Leyland tried to find some offense for the position as Will Rhymes struggled. (Plus, Brennan Boesch’s early success nudged Raburn out of what was supposed to be his starting left field job.) He’s played 60 games there over his career, starting 47 of them.
Deciding on Raburn as the starter makes it somewhat curious that Worth was even called up. Do the Tigers need two utility infielders on their roster? But as Brian Packey and I discussed in the SB Nation Detroit cafeteria, Worth is probably around as insurance if Raburn can’t start generating some offense. (He’s currently batting .204/.248/.345.)
Leyland is hoping that being assured – yet again – of a regular starting position will give Raburn confidence and spur him to the sort of offense he produced in the second half of last season. Or as Leyland put it in his postgame remarks:
“I'm going to talk to him tomorrow about it,” Leyland said late Friday night. “To me, Raburn's season starts tomorrow. Forget everything that's happened up to this point. Start your season tomorrow. You're going to be the second baseman pretty much on an everyday basis, at least for a while.”
Last year, Raburn hit .315/.366/.534 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs in 224 plate appearances. If Raburn is capable of repeating those numbers, this would be an excellent time for him to demonstrate it.
Frankly, it’s as good an option as any left on the Tigers’ roster. (Unless Carlos Guillen does actually recover enough to play this season. Oh, and stay healthy.) And if Raburn stays in his season-long slump, then at least Worth provides good defense at the position. Or maybe Santiago will get the majority of starts against right-handed pitching. This could safely be called a fluid situation for the Tigers right now.
Purcey is a left-handed reliever who's pitched quite well since the Toronto Blue Jays traded him to Oakland in mid-April. With the A's, he's compiled a 2.13 ERA with seven strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. Overall, he has a 3.60 ERA, striking out 10 batters in 15 innings. Walks have been a problem for him in his career, as he's averaged 4.5 per nine innings.
He also has experience as a starter, having started 21 games between 2008-09 for the Blue Jays. Tigers fans might remember him pitching quite well against their team. In four career starts versus Detroit, Purcey is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings. No wonder Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has had his eye on him for a while.
Dave Dombrowski: "We've tried to get David Purcey for a long time."
Purcey was almost certainly acquired to help out the Tigers' bullpen, however. Could he be a left-handed specialist? Well, maybe not. Lefties are batting .400/.455/.400 in 22 plate appearances against him this season. For his career, opposing lefties have hit .234/.340/.326 against him. But with Charlie Furbush and Adam Wilk already on hand, along with Daniel Schlereth, Detroit's relief corps is well stocked with left-handers. (And what about Brad Thomas, who's on the DL?)
Maybe we're burying the lede, though. Is the bigger story that the Tigers finally gave up on Sizemore, who was supposed to be their second baseman of the future?
For whatever reason, whether it was the pressure of replacing Placido Polanco or the level of play in the major leagues, Sizemore just hasn't been able to succeed over the past two seasons with the Tigers. After being called up in May to replace Will Rhymes, Sizemore had an outstanding debut, batting 3-for-4 against the Yankees. Since then, however, he hasn't been able to produce consistently.
As of Friday, Sizemore's average was .222/.329/.238 with no home runs and four RBIs. Obviously, that's not good enough. And it's especially baffling for a player whose hitting was supposed to be the best part of his game. Before being called up to Detroit, he was batting .408/.495/.605 with Triple-A Toledo and looked like he could provide soem punch to the Tigers' lineup.
Alas, that didn't happen. Is Sizemore the proverbial "Quadruple-A" player? It's too early to tell, but the early returns haven't looked very promising. Sizemore will be assigned to Oakland's Triple-A club for the time being, according to Jason Beck.
Who is the Tigers' second baseman in the meantime? Danny Worth was recalled from Toledo to take Sizemore's spot on the active roster, but will not be available for Friday's game against Boston. (Ramon Santiago was already penciled into the lineup for Detroit.) Worth was batting .270/.344/.443 for the Mud Hens and provides reliable middle infield defense for the Tigers.