02/19/2013 4:56 PM ET
Leyland confident in Dirks, but would like options
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland tried to make it clear Tuesday morning: He believes Andy Dirks is good enough to be an everyday player, but that doesn't mean he'll play every day this season.
Leyland said he "without question" feels comfortable starting the lefty-hitting Dirks in left field most days. But he'd like to have another right-handed-hitting outfielder who could start when Detroit faces an especially tough lefty starter and keep Dirks well rested.
Dirks, 27, has been a solid option when healthy. In 579 career plate appearances over 166 games in the past two years, he's posted a .293/.340/.454 batting line with 15 homers, 31 doubles and 63 RBIs.
However, Leyland also pointed out that Dirks missed about two months last season with an Achillies injury. That was further reason for Leyland to insist that the organization views Dirks as an everyday player, but also that there's a difference between being talented enough to play every day and being ready to do so.
"I think I can definitely play Dirksy more if I wanted to. I just have to watch him," Leyland said. "You've got a young player who hit pretty darn good against left-handed pitching.
"I think at this juncture in his career, to get the best out of him, I think you've got to watch him a little bit. Don't get greedy. I'm not saying he's not talented enough to play every day."
Dirks posted a .322/.370/.487 batting line in 88 games last season, with impressive numbers -- including a .336 average and .889 OPS -- against right-handed pitchers and a solid .274/.354/.397 line in 83 plate appearances against lefties.
But Leyland has always been a believer in using his entire roster, and he's mindful of younger players who might wear down over 162 games or struggle with the ups and downs of a long season. He pointed out that, as capably as Dirks has hit against left-handed pitching, he might still benefit from not having to face some of the more challenging southpaw starters the Tigers will face.
"When you've got some nasty left-handed pitching, that's when you want to get that guy [a day] off," Leyland said. "You want to save him a tough day at the plate, maybe. Keep his confidence up because he's doing good against right-handers and some left-handers."
Young outfielders to start spring opener
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced his starters and the pitching assignments for Detroit's Grapefruit League opener Friday against the Braves in Kissimmee, Fla.
Perhaps most interesting among Leyland's assignments is his young starting outfield: top prospect Nick Castellanos in left field, Quintin Berry in center and Avisail Garcia in right. They'll be joined by Detroit's regular starting infield -- Prince Fielder at first base, Omar Infante at second, Miguel Cabrera at third and Jhonny Peralta at shortstop -- plus catcher Brayan Pena and starter Rick Porcello.
"We'll play everybody. I'm going to play all the kids, get our guys ready," Leyland said. "I like to do that. I like playing the kids."
Leyland also told reporters Tuesday that his regular staring outfield -- Andy Dirks in left, Austin Jackson in center and Torii Hunter in right -- will start Saturday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Anibal Sanchez will take the mound Saturday for Detroit, while Justin Verlander will start Sunday against the Phillies.
Leyland previously announced Porcello as Friday's starter, but he noted Tuesday that the outing won't be of any more significance despite the fact that Porcello is battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. He'll be followed by right-handers Luis Marte, Luke Putkonen and Jose Ortega and left-hander Darin Downs. Lefties Jose Alvarez and Kenny Faulk, both non-roster invitees, are the backups who might pitch as well.
• Outfielder Brennan Boesch, who tweaked his right oblique during batting practice on Saturday, sat out of workouts for the third straight day Tuesday. Leyland said the Tigers' trainers feel "pretty good" about how Boesch is progressing, but it's unlikely he'll be ready to play in any games this weekend.
Detroit opens Grapefruit League play Friday against the Braves in Kissimmee, Fla., before returning to Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
"I don't want to sound cold about it, but right now, he's not available," Leyland said. "I'm not going to get all crazy about playing time and get into it. I can't do anything about it."
• Among the onlookers on the back fields of Tiger Town on Tuesday afternoon was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp, recently elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sapp stood alongside Leyland and chatted up anyone within earshot from behind the cage as a group of Tigers took batting practice, and Fielder gave Sapp a bat after the workout. Fielder bought a house in Windermere, Fla., before the 2010 season, and Sapp owned a home there that was reportedly auctioned off in 2012 as part of his bankruptcy case.