With outfield surplus, Tigers release Boesch

March 13, 2013

In many ways, the writing has been on the wall for Brennan Boesch since the end of last season.

After a miserable year in which Boesch failed to reach expectations, hitting just .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs in 132 games, Boesch was left off the postseason roster.

On Wednesday, the Tigers gave Boesch his unconditional release.

"As we've gone through this, Andy Dirks, we feel, has won the job to be our left fielder," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Lakeland, Fla. "And in Brennan's case, we were really looking more for a right-handed hitting outfielder out there in left field."

Dirks is hitting .310 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs in 10 games.

Boesch, who battled an oblique injury at the beginning of spring training, was hitting only .188 with a double and no RBIs in seven games.

Boesch arrived on the scene with a splash in the first half of the 2010 season, hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 65 games before the All-Star break. There was talk at the time that Boesch should have made the All-Star team.

Then the rookie came crashing back to earth, batting .163 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 68 games in the second half of the season.

In 2011, Boesch again had a good start to the season, hitting .306 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs before the All-Star break.

In the second half, his numbers took a dive again, but that was partly due to him trying to play through a thumb injury that eventually required surgery.

When the Tigers failed to defeat the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, there were many who believed that Boesch might have made a difference had he been healthy.

Last year, Boesch did very little to live up to that belief, despite getting plenty of chances to play.

In the first half of 2012, Boesch hit .243 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 79 games. The batting average wasn't too shocking, but the power drop-off was really disconcerting for the Tigers.

There were minor-league options available, but Dombrowski said they didn't consider that for Boesch, who turns 28 in April.

"You just reach a certain point with players from a development perspective that you don't think there's much to be gained," Dombrowski said. "The realistic aspect of it is that you're in a spot where I think if he goes to Triple-A, he tears the cover off the ball at Triple-A.

"But when you're in our spot, it really translates to how he will do at the big-league level."

Since Boesch was tendered a contract in the offseason and was due to make $2.3 million, it's unlikely he'll be claimed on waivers. Once he clears waivers, he becomes a free agent and can sign with any team.

As for the Tigers, there's no lack of depth among outfielders besides Dirks. Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Quintin Berry, Jeff Kobernus and Don Kelly are all in the mix to back up Dirks.

Castellanos, who just turned 21, is hitting .400 with a double, a home run and five RBIs in 12 games. It's likely he'll be an everyday player at Triple-A Toledo to start the season, but injuries at the big-league level could bring him up to the Tigers at some point in the season.

Garcia, 21, who impressed during the playoffs last year, is hitting .233 with a double, a home run and two RBIs in 14 games.

Berry, who was 21-for-21 in stolen bases last season, provides speed but is lefty like Dirks. Berry's also dealt with left patellar tendinitis this spring, which has limited him to five games.

Kobernus, 24, is an interesting case because he's a Rule 5 player who has to remain with the Tigers this season or be offered back to the Washington Nationals. He does provide a right-handed bat and speed -- two things the Tigers need.

Kobernus, who's listed as a second baseman and has never played outfield in the minors, is hitting .263 with two triples, two RBIs and six runs scored in 15 games.

The Tigers should be fine with whoever earns the reserve role because he's not going to be expected to carry the team.

As for Boesch, someone will give him a chance, and perhaps he'll thrive in a new environment and get back the power swing he demonstrated in 2010.