Higginson makes club; Thames demoted
Thames, Young unhappy with Trammell's decision
LAKELAND, Fla. -- After a week of wondering where he might land, Bobby Higginson will land in Detroit with the rest of the Tigers.
In a surprising decision that manager Alan Trammell said he didn't make until Thursday, he announced that Higginson has made the team. He beat out Marcus Thames for a reserve outfield spot, ensuring he'll at least begin an 11th season with the only Major League team he's known.
The decision, Trammell said, came down to Higginson's experience and left-handed hitting in an otherwise right-handed hitting outfield. He added that Higginson's performance over the last week, when he improved his hitting despite daily speculation over his future, played a role.
Reports about the Tigers likely releasing Higginson began Friday, when he was just 4-for-31 this spring and mired in a 0-for-14 slump. Since then, he has been on a 6-for-16 streak, a rare rear for someone who freely admits he struggles in Spring Training.
"I see a little life," Trammell said. "For a veteran player, it's very difficult. He's been in a tough situation where he needed to show something, and I'm seeing some signs. There's a guy who's been playing in the Major Leagues for a long time and done pretty well. That's my choice, and that's how I'm going to start the season."
It was a day full of late rallies for Higginson, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Indians in the afternoon. His 1-for-4 performance improved his Spring Training average to .213 (10-for-47) with three homers and six RBIs.
"Bobby has a way of scrapping and clawing," Trammell said. "That's what I expect out of him when he's called upon, to be ready. It's not an easy situation."
The decision was stunning to some in the Tigers' clubhouse because of the performance of Thames, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo despite hitting .286 (10-for-35) with four homers and 14 RBIs this spring. He also homered Thursday, hitting a first-inning grand slam to give the Tigers an early lead. The decision to keep Higginson over Thames, however, had been made before the game.
"Marcus has not done anything wrong," Trammell said, "but I feel I'd like to see him continue to play even though he did a job off the bench [last year]. I just think right now with Higgy that I'm going to go with the experience."
Thames was visibly upset after being informed of the news.
"To have come down to almost the last day, it feels like a slap in the face," Thames said. "I got hurt earlier, but I got treatment so I could get back out there. I thought I played hard enough to make the ballclub, but they're going in another direction, so there's nothing I can do about it."
Veteran slugger Dmitri Young was arguably more upset, and certainly more critical, about the decision to drop Thames than Thames was.
"They're making a mistake," Young said of Thames' demotion. "As players, obviously our input doesn't mean a thing. That's a total team player right there. I think he could start on some other teams. ... When you see somebody get absolutely [cheated] like that, it's beyond unfair.
"I wasn't going to say anything about it, but if I'm one of the main men on this team, I get to have a little say-so. It definitely stinks."
Trammell was prepared to hear the second-guessing as soon as he gave the news.
"I know this is the kind of stuff that the talk shows and the media are going to love," Trammell said. "That's the way it goes. I'm strong enough to take it."
As for criticism coming from players, Trammell said, "That's something I'll have to handle internally. There's a lot of decisions [to make]. They think as a player. We think a little more and think things out."
Trammell also announced that Nook Logan had made the team, essentially setting his outfield at five players. Alexis Gomez, who was competing with Logan to back up Craig Monroe in center field, was assigned to minor league camp earlier on Thursday. Also assigned to the minors was left-handed reliever Doug Creek.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.