June 17, 2011

Avila at Third? Not All That Uncommon in Tigers History

Tonight Alex Avila is the Tigers’ starting third baseman in the opener of a three-game series in Denver against the Rockies.

Avila’s never played third in the majors but he’s not the first Tigers player to be pressed into action there. Did you know that Al Kaline appeared in two games at third during his career?

In 1961, he played a full nine innings at third, fielding a pair of chances cleanly, with a putout and an assist. Four years later he played 5.1 innings of a game with three chances, two putouts and an assist.

Johnny Wockenfuss, who played mostly at first, catcher and in the outfield, became even more of a utility man for Sparky Anderson when he played … parts of two games – all of 2.1 innings – at third base but never saw any action.

Like Kaline, in 1965 Willie Horton played third but outlasted him be two-thirds of an inning. In one game he played six innings, fielded two chances and earned an assist on both.

Others taking a turn at the hot corner include:

  • Mickey Stanley: 18 games over two seasons (1975 and ’76), 61 chances, 13 putouts, 46 assists and two errors
  • Alan Trammell: 43 games in two seasons (1993, ’96), 100 chances, 26 putouts, 69 assists, five errors
  • Ty Cobb: 1 game in 1918, two chances, with an assist and a putout.
  • Charlie Gehringer: 6 error-free games (and 26 chances) in 1926 for The Mechanical Man

I’m looking forward to this experiment. Having Avila’s bat in the lineup is huge and having him at third, well, can’t be any worse than Ryan Raburn.

What do you think?

5 Comment(s)

  1. ryan | Jun 17, 2011 | Reply

    i agree raburn is one of the worst players offensively and defensively ive ever seen i think the lineup will make a big impact in the score!!!

  2. Ron | Jun 18, 2011 | Reply

    Too bad we can’t have a designated fielder for Raburn. One of the worst defensively I have ever watched at any position.
    Reminds me of a bad fielding first baseman Dick Stuart aka ‘Dr. StrangeGlove’.
    His new nickname is Shinebox as in “Go get your shine box” after he makes an out or another bad fielding play.

  3. Fred | Jun 18, 2011 | Reply

    All these years later, it finally makes sense. I could never figure out why Kaline’s photo on one of those late 70’s Topps baseball cards had him in an infielder’s defensive crouch.

  4. Mike McClary | Jun 19, 2011 | Reply

    Fred, if the cards are from the ’70s, chances are they show Kaline while he’s playing first — something he often did late in his career.

  5. Jim Craddock | Jun 21, 2011 | Reply

    My nickname for Raburn is “Clank”–the sound his glove makes whenever it touches a baseball (before the ball rolls away). Although I like Shinebox, too.

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