Report: Detroit Tigers Send Rule 5 Jeff Kobernus Back to Washington Nationals

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIMarch 23, 2013

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Jeff Kobernus of the Detroit Tigers poses for a portrait on February 19, 2013 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers announced Saturday that they have returned Jeff Kobernus back to the Washington Nationals, according to CBS’s Danny Knobler.

Kobernus was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Boston Red Sox at the end of the winter meetings in Nashville. The Red Sox, in turn, traded the outfielder to Detroit for utility player Justin Henry.

However, in 10 games this spring, Kobernus only hit .220 and posted an OBP of .291. For a player that had not played at a higher level than Double-A before, that simply was not good enough to stay in the majors.

Under the rules of the Rule 5 draft, any player selected must stay on the 25-man roster the entire season, unless injured. The Tigers could not demote him without offering him back to his parent club, the Nationals.

While it was not a surprise that Kobernus did not make the Tigers roster, it is surprising that the Tigers and Nats could not work out a trade for the 24-year-old left fielder.

Kobernus has been a consistent .280 hitter in the minors with blazing speed. He stole 42 bases last year in Harrisburg in 82 games. He also can stretch out an extra base, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

He has been a middle infielder in the Nationals organization and played six games at second for Detroit.

With uber-prospect Nick Castellanos already sent back to minor league camp and nagging injuries to Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry and Avisail Garcia, Kobernus could have grabbed some playing time with Detroit early in the season to either spell Dirks in left or Torii Hunter in right.

He was not ready to play full-time in the big leagues, but the conventional wisdom was Detroit and Washington would have made a minor deal to keep Kobernus with the Tigers once the team was healthy enough to send him back down.

Detroit also has Kyle Lobstein from Tampa via Rule 5—after the Tigers acquired him via a trade with the New York Mets—but he has been less than impressive posting an ERA of 7.50 in 12 innings.

Don Kelly and Matt Tuiasosopo—both non-roster invitees—are battling for the last position spots on the roster and—with Saturday’s decision—are now odds-on favorites to make the team.

*Spring statistics as of Friday, March 22 and courtesy of Baseball Reference.