LAKELAND, Fla. — Jeff Kobernus, we hardly knew you.
After Saturday’s 10-6 exhibition victory over the New York Yankees, the Tigers announced that they were returning Rule 5 pickup Jeff Kobernus to the Washington Nationals.
“He wasn’t going to make our big league club.,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We did try to make a trade over the last couple days, we were not able to consummate that so they ended up where they decided to take him back.”
The Tigers originally acquired Kobernus in the Rule 5 Draft during the winter meetings.
Kobernus, 24, who is a second baseman, was amenable to playing left field or the infield, but other players were ahead of him, according to Dombrowski.
“In fairness, we did ask him to change positions,” manager Jim Leyland said. “So obviously that made it probably a little uncomfortable for the guy. But he went out there, he played it in school. I thought he actually did pretty well. Do I think he can play left field? Yeah, I think he can play left field but he wasn’t going to make our club at this particular time.”
Kobernus batted .220 with six runs scored, two triples and three RBIs in 21 games (50 at-bats). He had not played in the last three games, including Saturday.
“There are a lot of things we saw that we liked about him,” Dombrowski said. “We just saw somebody ahead of him is what it comes down to. No final decisions. We still can make moves.”
Kobernus dressed quietly and declined comment in the clubhouse.
Dombrowski said he believes the Tigers can fill the job from within, but did not rule out a trade.
Leyland said he realized the attention would turn to Matt Tuiasosopo, who went 1-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI single and a walk Saturday to lift his average to .318.
“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 said. “All I’m telling you is he is a candidate and he has accounted for himself very well. That’s where we stand right now.
“A lot of things happen in this business. A lot of things happen in a week’s time.”