Who’s on first? Detroit Tigers’ plan is like an Abbott and Costello routine

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers are like an Abbott and Costello routine come to life…

Me: Who’s on first?

Tigers manager AJ Hinch: Everybody.

Me: Everybody?

Hinch: Yes, everybody.

Me: At first?

Hinch: Right.

[ Miguel Cabrera will start at first base on Opening Day ]

Me: Let’s start over. Let’s say Castro is at shortstop. He gets the ball and flips it to first. Who could that be?

Hinch: Castro.

Me: Castro?

Hinch: Yes.

Me:  Seriously, short?

Hinch: No, Short is starting the season in the minor leagues.

Me: Short?

Hinch: Exactly. But don’t be surprised if Short is in the big leagues this year.

Me: OK. Let’s try this a different way. Your team is going to start the season on Thursday. You come out of the dugout. You look out across Comerica Park. And it’s magical Opening Day in Detroit — always is. You look at the grass and you see green.

[ No ticket, don’t come: Mike Duggan warns strict COVID-19 safety enforcement on Opening Day ]

Hinch: Nope. No chance. He’s in Lakeland.

ME: Lakeland?

Hinch: Greene.

Me: No, I’m saying, you look out and it’s green.

Hinch: Sure, maybe next year. But still in Lakeland. Still has a bunch to learn.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Watching the Tigers with Riley Greene’s dad unearths great stories on top prospect

Me: They all do, right? That’s gonna be the theme of this season.

Hinch: Right.

Me: Roger, that.

Hinch: Nope. Greiner beat him out.

ME: Greiner?

Hinch: Yes. Greiner took a ball off his nose but kept playing well. Rogers is heading to Toledo.

Me: You sure ’bout that? Are you making much ado about nothing?

Hinch: No, he made the team.

Me: Seriously?

Hinch: Baddoo had a heck of a spring.

MORE ON SEIDEL: Akil Baddoo was surprise of spring for the Tigers. It was a no brainer to keep him.

ME: This whole conversation is just coming out of left field. It’s gross, man.

Hinch: Exactly. Grossman is in left.

Me: No. Seriously. If you just say who is at first, I’ll give you some candy.

Hinch: He might be.

Me: Who?

Hinch: Candy.

Me: Let me say this slowly. You. Are. In. A —

Hinch: One of our pitchers — Urena.

Me: No way, Jose.

Hinch: You’ll see them on the mound. Both of them.

Me: From whence?

Hinch: Nah. He is still in Lakeland.

Me: Who?

Hinch: Wentz.

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Me: From?

Hinch: Kansas.

ME: Of course. Kansas.

Hinch: Yep.

Me: Let’s try to think big picture. Most are predicting the Minnesota Twins or the Chicago White Sox will win the AL Central. How do you keep up with the Joneses?

Hinch: You can’t. He’s quick. That’s why he’s in center field.

Me: Center field?

Hinch: Yeah. But he could move around, too. Maybe even in left.

Me: The White Sox?

Hinch: No, the Joneses.

Me: Sigh.

Hinch: Let me turn the tables here. Let me ask you a question. So did you do anything fun during spring training?

Me: Spent some time at the beach. Love me some good rum.

Hinch: Me, too. Goodrum is gonna play all over the place.

[ Why AJ Hinch has made ‘versatility’ the name of the game ]

Me: OK. This is really confusing. Let’s try to shore this up.

Hinch: Don’t be surprised if he gets to Detroit at some point this year.

Me: Who?

Hinch: Logan.

Me: OK. Let’s try this again. Who is playing first?

Hinch: Everybody.

Me: Of course.

Everybody.

Because the Tigers have an unusual strategy heading into this season. They don’t have a full-time first baseman. You’ll see some Miguel Cabrera — a few times a week, if his body holds up. You’ll see some Jeimer Candelario, although Hinch views him as a natural third baseman.

Hinch will also try Niko Goodrum and Harold Castro. Probably, even some Jonathan Schoop.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to work out,” Hinch said.

And that’s one of the things I have grown to appreciate about Hinch. He is going into this season with a plan — but it’s written in pencil. He wants a flexible roster, so that he can move everybody around. He has a bunch of parts and he’s not exactly sure how it’s going to fit together.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Spencer Torkelson had a spring training to forget — and that’s the plan

The hole at first base will allow him to get some of the youngsters into the games in other spots.

Hinch has enough confidence in his own managerial instincts — and he has the track record of success — to figure it out.

It’s like that across the field.

Who will be his closer? He’s not sure in the long term. But the Tigers have an intriguing, versatile bullpen. The roles will be defined by production. The closer, Hinch believes, will emerge.

How will Hinch handle a five-man outfield? He’s not entirely sure.

This is like a Netflix miniseries that is being written in real time, as the season unfolds.

And it is going to be fascinating.

All that matters in the end, of course, is not how many games this team wins. It is how much these prospects continue to develop.

Me: In closing, I suppose there’s one thing we can surmise.

Hinch: He made the club.

Me: Who?

Hinch: Sir Mize, as you call him. Casey is a major league pitcher. Love his stuff. Just gotta pound the strike zone and stop nibbling.

Me: Strikes?

Hinch: Yep. If we get the pitching right, for all these young prospects, this rebuild will be right on track.

Me: Finally, that’s something we can agree on.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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