LAKELAND, Fla. -- Can a hard-working player win a job as a left fielder by playing second base?
Jeff Kobernus might just be able to pull it off, precisely because he can play second.
Let's be clear, the Tigers don't need any more middle infielders. Nobody will challenge Omar Infante for the starting job, Ramon Santiago has the edge as a backup, and Danny Worth could feasibly make the roster as a second utility infielder. For regular-season purposes, Kobernus' ability to play second is merely a bonus.
For Spring Training, however, Kobernus' utility has allowed him to get more at-bats than any other candidate. In fact, he entered Friday with more at-bats (31) than anyone on the team. He was tied with Tyler Collins with nine hits.
The closest outfield candidate in playing time is Avisail Garcia, who entered Friday with 24 at-bats. Plenty others are down in the teens and low 20s. Brennan Boesch just returned to action this week after missing the first week and a half of games with an oblique strain.
Simply put, there are too many outfielders at this point. They're not just potential candidates that manager Jim Leyland wants to evaluate, but regulars Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter and Andy Dirks.
Thus, while Boesch was in left field Thursday against the Braves, Kobernus was at second base.
At some point, Leyland said, he's going to have to see Kobernus in left. In the meantime, he'll have Kobernus take fly balls during pregame batting practice and working with outfield coach Tom Brookens. That gives him at least the practice of tracking the ball off the bat and getting some routes down.
"I feel good out there," said Kobernus, ranked by MLB.com as the Tigers' No. 16 prospect. "From the first day [of camp] to now, I've felt good, not really worried about anything."
The at-bats Kobernus gets at second base are more important for Leyland than the reps in left. If he hits, Leyland points out, he'll make a good outfielder.