After a strong spring training, Tigers Manager Jim Leyland decided to carry six outfielders which made retaining Boesch possible. He's already gotten two starts, one in place of Ryan Raburn in the seasons second game, and another last night with Magglio Ordonez slowed by a balky ankle. After going 1-5 in his first game of the year, he went 4-4 last night against an injury hampered Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon for a scoring 5-9 start to the year.
I'd like to attribute that early success to a change in mechanics or advancement as a hitter, but unfortunately I cannot. A couple weeks ago I discussed what Tigers fans ought to expect from Boesch in 2011, I noted that he was an extremely aggressive hitter with a long swing that lent itself to strikeouts. That's as true today as it was last year. But like I also said in that post, he should still be a capable bat against righties.
In this particular game Boesch showed off his repertoire, taking a pitch up and away from Hughes and rolling it over through the hole between 1st and 2nd. Then he took another Hughes fastball, this time up and over the plate and flyined it into center for another single. His third at-bat produced the homerun, this time a soft Colon fastball left right over the heart of the plate.
It was in his final at-bat that I was most impressed. While Hughes and Colon pretty much gift-wrapped Boesch a number of hittable pitches, Joba Chamberlain's second offering was a 94mph fastball at the knees. This is typically the kind of pitch Boesch would struggle with but he dropped the bat-head nicely and hit a hard low line drive through the hole between 1st and 2nd for his fourth hit of the night.
Overall it was an impressive performance. I'm not of the belief that Boesch will be a great hitter like he was in the 1st hlf of 2010 ever again, but when deployed as he was last night against less-than-great right handed pitching he can still be a very useful player.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.