When the door closed on Brennan Boesch's time with the Tigers it may have opened up for non-roster invitee Don Kelly and/or Rule 5 choice Jeff Kobernus.
Detroit released Boesch on Mar. 13, the decision partially financial in that the club only had to pay him $383,333 of the $2.3 million he agreed to in avoiding arbitration this winter.
A bigger factor was Detroit not needing another left-handed hitting outfielder behind left-handed batting Andy Dirks, who had won the left field job. Signing free agent Torii Hunter squeezed Boesch out of right field. A sore side muscle kept Boesch out of action the first two weeks of spring training, which also hurt his chances.
The Tigers were looking for players to complement Dirks. Kobernus, who hasn't played outfield since college, supplies that in that he hits right-handed and can also play second base.
Kelly hits left-handed but offers positional versatility in that he can play nearly every position on the field. Clearing Boesch from the roster means Kelly, who signed a minor league deal after being released by Detroit after the World Series, can be added without the club having to delete someone from the 40-man roster.
"We just didn't see a fit for our big-league club," GM Dave Dombrowski said after the release of Boesch. "Andy Dirks has won the job (left field). We've been looking for a right-hand hitter and have tried to trade his contract ($2.3 million). We felt a change of scenery would be best."
"Dirks is a good player. I look at him as being our primary left fielder. How many games he ends up being out there, that's up to Jim (Leyland) as we go through it. But there's really not a need for another left-handed hitting outfielder that doesn't have the versatility aspect. ... The fit's just not there for us."
Brayan Pena is almost assured of a spot as the backup catcher while Ramon Santiago is fighting Danny Worth for the role of backup infielder.
Quintin Berry is in the mix as a backup outfielder but Kobernus also offers the bench speed Jim Leyland wants when he pinch runs for DH Victor Martinez late in games. Berry, who also hits left-handed, has had his chances lowered by a sore knee.
Detroit tried to trade Boesch but teams appeared unwilling to pick up a $2.3 million salary for a player with a high ceiling but an uneven track record. Anyone claiming him must pay his whole salary but after he clears waivers he can sign for any amount.
He was expected to sign quickly once waivers expired.