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.
Win or lose, Leyland not planning on retiring
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Sure, manager Jim Leyland said, he'd like to win a World Series for owner Mike Ilitch. But he'd also like to win one for himself to go with his championship with the Florida Marlins in 1997.
Even if the Tigers do win it all, though, it won't put a finishing touch on his career.
"I'm not retiring, whether we win or we don't win," Leyland said Friday. "Now, I mean, [the front office] might have different thoughts, but it won't be mine."
His thoughts, ever since he began signing one-year extensions, have been that he wanted to take it year to year and see how he feels, so that neither he nor the Tigers feel obligated to a contract. He never really talked about retirement in that stretch, but he has liked the flexibility.
Contractually, his year-to-year status isn't going to change. In his mind, though, he already knows he wants to manage beyond this year.
"I mean, I have no intention of retiring," Leyland said. "I feel good. I like what I'm doing. I have absolutely no intention of retiring."
Nor, he said, did he seriously think about going out on top if the Tigers had won the World Series last October.
"A lot of people said, 'Well, if you won last year, would you have retired?' No, I would not have," Leyland said. "That was never in the plan. I don't have any plan on retiring anytime soon, but that could very easily change with how the club does and how [team president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] and Mr. Ilitch feel."
Leyland turned 68 last December. He's currently the third-oldest manager in the Majors, trailing Washington's Davey Johnson and Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel. Johnson is expected to retire after this season. Manuel's contract is up next winter, but while there has been speculation about his potential retirement, he hasn't talked definitively about his future.
Leyland is letting his intentions be known. His health is fine, he says, and he enjoys his job. As far as he's concerned, he has no reason to stop.
"Now, three-fourths of the year into the season, I might say, 'You know what, I've had enough,'" Leyland said. "But right now, I have absolutely no intention of retiring. I've got too much energy. I love what I'm doing. I love the competition. I like the good pressure of it. I don't like some of the stuff that goes with it. Nobody likes some of the stuff that goes with it, but you accept that. When you sit in this chair, you accept that. If you don't, you're crazy."
Scherzer battles control, but still finds success
LAKELAND, Fla. -- When Max Scherzer has his best stuff with control, he's tough to hit, as he showed last summer. When he doesn't have his control, he's still tough to hit for different reasons, as he showed early last season.
His start against the Mets on Friday was much of the latter. He wasn't entirely happy about it, but he'll take it.
In 11 batters, Scherzer had six strikeouts, three walks and just two balls put in play. Both of those came from Jordany Valdespin, who flied out to left field in the opening inning before grounding out to second to close Scherzer's outing in the third.
"I don't like the walks," Scherzer said. "Obviously, I want to be throwing strikes. But if you look at my stuff, I thought all my offspeed pitches were really good today. I was generating swing-and-misses on both the slider and the changeup. At the end, I threw a few curveballs for strikes, which shows that pitch is coming along, too."
Mets hitters swung and missed on 10 of Scherzer's 49 pitches, including the 75-mph curveball he dropped on Ruben Tejada for a strikeout leading off the third. It's a slow breaking ball that he began tinkering with last season and is trying out this spring to see if it disrupts hitters' timing.
"That's just another wrinkle I'm trying to incorporate," Scherzer said.
Scherzer doesn't face the choice of Rick Porcello, who has thrown curveballs instead of sliders so far this spring. With the feel Scherzer has for his slider, though, he felt comfortable trying the curveball without worrying about any impact on his other pitches.
Worth flashing bat after reworking approach
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Danny Worth doesn't have a first baseman's glove. When Tigers manager Jim Leyland put him there in Thursday's game against the Braves, he had to borrow Don Kelly's glove.
If Worth makes the team, he might have to get an extra glove just in case, he was thinking Friday. But his swing might be a little more important.
It's early, but he's showing signs of getting that, too.
Worth went into Thursday having been working with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon on taking pitches to the opposite field. His three hits included two doubles, one hit well to right-center and another down the right-field line.
It's a small sample size, but he's 7-for-18 so far this spring with four doubles. His next base hit will put him halfway to his total in 43 games as a Tiger last regular season.
"Like most all other players, if you hit, you play," Leyland said. "He's stronger, and he's doing better. Mac's been working him, and the one thing he's been working on, he did it twice last night."
Some of the work, Worth said, was mechanical. More of it was his approach.
"I just have a more simple approach," Worth said. "Last year, I just kind of got out of my boundaries a little bit, trying to do too much, hit for too much power -- which translates into hitting for no power. I'm just trying to make it simple and use the whole field more."
Tigers assign Robowski, Morrison to Minors camp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers made their second batch of roster cuts this spring, assigning pitchers Ryan Robowski and Michael Morrison to Minor League camp.
Both pitchers were non-roster invitees who were in big league camp for the first time. While the Tigers wanted them to get the experience with Major League instruction, they didn't expect either of them to compete for a roster spot. With other pitchers needing to stretch out their workload as camp rolls on, there weren't enough innings to go around.
Morrison, a 25-year-old right-hander, pitched in three games, allowing three runs on two hits last Saturday in a split-squad game against the Yankees. He struck out four and walked three.
Robowski, also 25, gave up six runs on four hits in two innings. He last pitched on Feb. 28 against the Rays.
• Ramon Santiago made his first start of the spring Friday, going 0-for-1 with a walk as the leadoff hitter and shortstop. He missed close to two weeks with a strained right calf.
• Victor Martinez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Friday, but it represented the longest he has played in a game this spring. Martinez has been held back from swinging right-handed this week due to back tightness, but the Mets didn't put him up against a lefty. Martinez will not be on the travel roster for Saturday's game against the Blue Jays and lefty Ricky Romero.