Around the Horn: Outfielders

Tigers armed with options in the outfield

Following is the sixth in a series of weekly stories on examining each Major League club, position-by-position. Each Wednesday until Spring Training camps open, we'll preview a different position. Today: Outfielders.

Nook Logan already ranked among the fastest players in baseball last year, and he spent the offseason at a performance facility in part to become quicker.

Magglio Ordonez worked out with the University of Miami football team. Curtis Granderson spent his second consecutive offseason getting extra at-bats, this time traveling to the Dominican Republic to do it. Dmitri Young has lost at least 20 pounds from his frame to try to play left field again. Craig Monroe worked out again with other big-leaguers in Dallas.

In the past, the term "room for improvement" in regards to the Tigers outfield meant moving in the fences at Comerica Park or adding seats in right field. This year, there's more room for improvement in the Tigers' outfield play than expected, and more potential combinations for who plays there.

The list of players appear set. Ordonez, Monroe, Young, Logan and Granderson are near-locks to make the squad, barring a trade or a terrible Spring Training. New manager Jim Leyland is keeping his options open for flexibility, but he's also creating a sense of competition that wasn't expected when last season ended.

The one job completely up for competition is in center, where Logan and Granderson will battle for playing time. Unless one of the two wows the coaching staff in camp, the two seem set for some sort of platoon.

Logan's speed has marveled scouts for as long as he's been a pro. He caught the American League by surprise last April, when Alex Sanchez's release and Ordonez's hernia surgery gave him a chance to assemble a personal highlight reel, capped by his daring run from first base to home plate on a wild pitch in early May at Texas.

Then-manager Alan Trammell was always cautious enough to point out he still had improvements to make. By midseason, opponents learned to stymie him. His speed meant nothing if he couldn't get on base, which became a problem when his bunting became less of a factor.

Logan had heard before that he needed to get stronger if he wanted to make it in the Majors. His first full year in the big leagues, however, made it clearer. He set up a new offseason home with his little brother in Houston, where he enrolled in a performance facility. When he lived with family in Mississippi, he was in familiar surroundings, but he had to drive over an hour to reach a workout facility.

More than simple weightlifting, the camp boosted Logan's core strength while maintaining -- even improving -- his quickness.

"I feel good. That's what it's for," Logan said. "You have to maintain whatever strength you have for as long as you can."

If Logan can provide some power to his game and improve his hitting from the left side of the plate, he'll have a tough package of tools for Granderson to beat. Granderson has come up through the farm system at a level behind Logan for the last few years. This is the first year they're competing for the same job.

Detroit Tigers
Starters: Young staff grows up in '06
Bullpen: Another new closer
Catchers: Pudge eyes rebound
Corner IF: Inge provides security
Middle IF: Duo to showcase skills
Outfielders: Numerous possibilities
DH/Bench: Looking for versatility

He'll never be as fast as Logan, and he admits he loves watching Logan run. His challenge is to make his total game better.

"The big thing I have to go ahead and do in order to match the speed," Granderson said, "is get myself in the best position to make my routes as short as possible from first [base] to second or first to third. ... I've got to try to have the advantage which will make me a step quicker than my natural God-given ability. If I play a step or two deeper [in the outfield] and we both get to the ball at the same time, we both look just as fast, even though everyone knows he is faster."

Once Granderson arrived for good from Triple-A Toledo last August, he was the regular starter in center, with Logan usually a defensive replacement. Granderson boasts solid speed in his own right, having stolen 23 bases last season. The difference is his other tools, including surprising power and smart play. He was a 20-20 player between Detroit and Toledo last year, with 35 doubles and 16 triples in 158 games.

While Logan is seen as a center fielder exclusively, Granderson can also play the corner spots. Leyland has mentioned the idea of playing both Granderson and Logan at the same time, at least on occasion. He'd also like to have Young available in the corners, if anything because it would free up playing time at first base, and DH for Chris Shelton and Carlos Pena.

In the meantime, though, it gives added incentive to Monroe and Ordonez. Ordonez is undoubtedly an everyday player, as long as he's healthy. The lingering question entering camp is whether he can remain so playing in the field or whether he needs to DH from time to time.

Ordonez missed almost three months with hernia surgery last season, then seemingly tired down the stretch from everyday playing time. The fatigue, however, might well have come from an inability to train as hard as he wanted last winter. In his first healthy offseason in two years, Ordonez's conditioning seems ready for the rigors of right field.

"I feel like I'm 20 again," he said during TigerFest.

Monroe finally became an everyday player last season, and in the process ended up the team's most effective run producer with a team-high 89 RBIs to go with 20 home runs and a .277 average. With Rondell White now in Minnesota, Monroe entered the offseason as the left fielder.

Now, Leyland has additional options with Young and perhaps Granderson. Monroe could even end up splitting time between left and center if Young becomes more than an occasional option in left. One way or another, though, Monroe is expected to be in the lineup on a regular basis.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.