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Saturday, March 22, 2014
A comeback for Vizquel?

By Jayson Stark

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What kind of spring has it been for the Tigers? This ought to sum it up.

When we asked their manager, Brad Ausmus, Saturday morning if he'd given any thought to an Omar Vizquel comeback, Ausmus actually uttered these four words:

"We talked about it."

OK, so they've mostly joked about it. Mostly. But in a spring in which the Tigers have suffered injuries that will cost them their shortstop (Jose Iglesias), primary set-up man (Bruce Rondon) and platoon left fielder (Andy Dirks) for all or most of the season, just about nothing is off the table anymore.

Even a comeback by their 46-year-old first-base coach, who last played 85 games in a season at short in 2007.

"He probably could do it part-time," Ausmus said of Vizquel, who finally retired after the 2012 season, after 24 seasons in the big leagues. "But then I'd have to go find a first-base coach."

The manager laughed. And you would have thought that was the end of this discussion. Except Ausmus then picked it up again, musing out loud that Vizquel "could probably handle it. I don't know if he could play 150 games. But he could probably be a platoon shortstop if he got himself in shape. He certainly still has the hands."

And they know that's true, because he has taken ground balls off and on all spring, just to help provide hands-on instruction (literally) to the Tigers' young infielders. And Vizquel still has the best hands of any of them.

But let's make this clear, all right? This is not going to happen. The Tigers just traded for the Andrew Romine. They haven't completely slammed the door on Stephen Drew if it's a one-year deal. They still are looking hard at Danny Worth, Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, all of whom made the trip to Dunedin on Saturday.

So they're not going to be activating any members of their coaching staff any time soon -- even one of the great defensive shortstops in the history of baseball. But not only have they chuckled about the idea of Vizquel being their "Plan B" at short, "we're still joking about it," Ausmus said.

"He was stretching today with the players," the manager reported. "And we told him, 'Relax, we got Romine.' "

But which of those two would they run out there on Opening Day if they seriously had to make that choice? The answer might actually be the 46-year-old first-base coach.