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Tigers still a work in progress/Paul Peterson

October 19, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

There is no question about it. Eliminating the hated New York Yankees from the American League playoffs was really sweet.

And yes, the Detroit Tigers have many parts of the puzzle present to be contenders for years to come.

But there is also little doubt that the Tigers are still a work in progress.

General Manager Dave Dombrowski must address three major items in the upcoming off season:

1. Get more speed in the lineup, preferably in the outfield. 2. Find a steady everyday second baseman. 3. Strengthen the middle relief corps.

Dombrowski deserves all the props he has been receiving for bringing in starting pitcher Doug Fister, outfielder Delmon Young and third baseman Wilson Betemit in late-season deals.

Fister, who pitched even better than Cy Young winner Justin Verlander down the stretch, was a real steal. And Young, who the Tigers practically stole from the Minnesota Twins, provided much-needed punch.

Detroit needs to go out and land an outfielder like Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, who can run and hit for average.

They must also be honest about centerfielder Austin Jackson. Jackson struck out 181 times in the regular season and whiffed plenty in the postseason. He's not very effective in the leadoff spot and should be batting far down in the lineup.

Second base has been a problem since Placido Polanco was let go. Ramon Santiago was a nice fill-in, but he's strictly a utility player. Experimenting with bad gloveman Ryan Raburn at the position was also a disaster.

Pitching-poor Baltimore has some nice infield prospects, including second baseman Robert Andino.

The Tigers' middle relief was dismal for the most part and pitchers like Daniel Schlereth and disappointing Ryan Perry might be packaged in a trade with Baltimore.

There's also the matter of cutting ties with longtime favorites Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and maybe even Brandon Inge.

Guillen has spent the last two years on injured reserve, while the often-injured Ordonez has lost several steps on defense and much of his batting punch.

The highly popular Inge has also lost the pop in his bat and is a strictly late-inning defensive replacement.

It won't happen soon but I would like to see Inge hired as a base coach, replacing Gene Lamont. Highly questionable decisions by Lamont cost the Tigers one game - and possibly two - in the Texas playoff series.

Manager Jim Leyland, who steadfastly sticks with his coaching cronies, isn't likely to make that move, however. But Lamont's presence at third base definitely hurts the team in close games.

Much was made of the Tigers' great September record. But you have to remember that all but four of those games came against: a Minnesota team that used as many as six minor leaguers in the lineup; a Chicago White Sox team that more or less went in the tank; and a Cleveland team that was crippled by injuries.

The Tigers have one of the strongest everyday lineups in baseball, great starting pitching and two top closing relievers.

But unless they make some moves, they may struggle to reach the postseason next season.



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