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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tigers return Rule 5 draft acquisition Kobernus to Nats

Another experiment ends.

The Tigers thought maybe minor-league speedster Jeff Kobernus could be the right-handed hitting complement to Andy Dirks in left field, and traded Justin Henry to the Boston Red Sox for the Rule 5 draft rights to the former Washington Nationals farmhand.

Kobernus had never played above the Double-A level, and hadn’t played the outfield since early in his college career at Cal, but had the athleticism the team was trying to infuse into the roster.

Heading into the final week of camp, though, with Kobernus hitting just .220 with a pair of triples and no stolen bases — and just .190 against left-handers, the role he’d need to excel in to make a contribution — the Tigers decided that particular experiment was over, announcing they were planning to send him back to the Nationals.

By rule, the Tigers would have had to carry Kobernus on the active roster all season, or offer him back to the Nationals at half the original $50,000 selection price.

“There are a lot of things we liked about (Kobernus). We just saw somebody ahead of him. No final decisions,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters, as reported by FOX Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji. “We did try to make a trade over the last couple days; we were not able to consummate that.”

That leaves, as internal options for the left field spot, journeyman Matt Tuiasosopo and career infielder Danny Worth, along with left-handed bats in Quintin Berry and Don Kelly. Manager Jim Leyland had recently said it was "99 percent" sure that the Tigers would have a right-handed hitting player in that fourth outfield spot.

Tuiasosopo, in particular, has been crushing the ball of late, coming into Saturday’s game hitting .480 with four homers and four doubles over his previous 12 contests, then added an RBI single in Detroit’s 10-6 win.

“There’s going to be fans and they’re going to email in and they’re going to be tweeting and twitting or whatever they call it, as soon as they see Kobernus is gone, they’re going to have Tuiasosopo on the team,” Leyland told writers after the game, as reported by Wakiji, “and all I’m telling you is, he is a candidate.”

Of course, the Tigers could always look outside the organization to fill that role, as well.


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