After last night’s debacle against the Baltimore Orioles, the Detroit Tigers announced that catcher Dusty Ryan and outfielder Wilkin Ramirez were optioned to Toledo. To replace them, the Tigers promoted RHP Chris Lambert and catcher Alex Avila to the big leagues.
My gut reaction to these moves is that I don’t like them, not one bit.
I’m okay with the Lambert recall, he has pitched well enough in Toledo, and after Casey Fien was sent down, the team was going to add another arm soon, so Lambert is a solid choice. I’d rather see him than Freddy Dolsi or Eddie Bonine again, anyway.
Calling up Avila, however, just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Clearly, Jim Leyland has been unwilling to give Ryan much of a chance to play, and Gerald Laird simply cannot continue to catch every day. But unless Leyland is planning to play Avila a lot more than he played Ryan, all this does is retard the growth of Avila’s career.
I would much rather see a veteran backup catcher brought in (Johnny Estrada and Paul LoDuca are both free agents) to sit on the bench than to see the organization’s top catching prospect rotting away when he could be getting regular playing time in the minors.
If the plan is for Avila to start the majority of the games at catcher going forward, I like the move a lot less. Avila is simply not ready to handle the regular catching duties in the MLB.
Even if his offense is an upgrade to Laird, the biggest reason the Tigers are in first place is the pitching staff, and a huge chunk of that success has to be credited to the game calling of Laird.
If you cut into his role, you had better have someone else who can step in and do the same type of job with the pitchers. I doubt Avila, just two seasons into his career, with no experience above Double-A ball, is ready to do that.
Then there is Ramirez, the Tigers top hitting prospect. He has been red-hot in Triple-A recently, and has now been recalled twice by the Tigers, only to be sent back down after one game (both times).
Ramirez provides really the only chance the Tigers have to possibly improve the poor corner outfield offense and stay within the system. I had hoped this was the time they were going to give him a real chance to show what he can do at the major league level. Wrong again.
I don’t know if Ramirez is ready to help the big league club, no one knows that until he gets a real chance to show us. I do know that the division is winnable, but the Tigers are going to have to score more runs than they have been in order to win the division.
Waiting for the veteran hitters to start hitting has proven unsuccessful, but it looks like the strategy is to keep running Magglio Ordonez out there and hope he gets five years younger, all the while, watching his plate appearances creep toward the magic number.
Leyland has said that the Tigers won’t win if Ordonez and Carlos Guillen don’t produce like they have in the past, and he is bound and determined to prove that.