The key player for Detroit over the next two weeks or so just might be Ryan Raburn.
The sidelining of Brandon Inge because of mononucleosis means the Tigers will be a little thin on the infield, and maybe in the batting order as well.
Inge was in a two-month slump — whether his illness was a major factor remains to be seen — so it’s not like Detroit is going to get a sharp offensive drop-off from Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth, who will share time at third for the time being. Kelly figures to get the bulk of the starts because he hits left-handed and his defense comes the closest to approximating Inge’s sometimes-spectacular play.
Putting Raburn at second, where he’s bit short defensively, isn’t going to cost Detroit any offense from the barely-over-.200 numbers Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore were giving out.
A team with playoff pretensions and a golden opportunity to take charge in its division can’t afford a continuing string of zeroes from its second and third basemen.
Which is why Raburn has a load to carry beyond his own expectations.
If Raburn gives Detroit a few glimpses of what he showed in Detroit’s 7-3 win over Chicago — a first-pitch grand slam that capped a six-run fourth inning — it could convince the Tigers to go with what they have until and after Inge returns. Nobody knows how quickly he can bounce back from his illness.
Raburn also has a five-game hitting streak, which, while it contains a grand total of five hits, is still a five-game hitting streak.
But Raburn puttering along at .200 with no home runs or RBI means Detroit would need output from Kelly, Santiago and Worth that is beyond their career histories. With Raburn producing, the Tigers can mix and match those three and take anything they can get offensively as a plus.
If neither position gives Detroit offense, the Tigers will probably be in the market for a second baseman even when Inge returns. They should have a good indication what they need to do, if anything, in the next two weeks.
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