Crowded Tigers lineup leaves room for left field battle

LAKELAND, Fla. - The Tigers lineup is stacked with talent, but the big hitters have left one ticket to join the party.

Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch, and Quintin Berry are all battling for the starting job in left field, with a long spring ahead of them before a decision is made.

"It's gonna be difficult, but I think it's a good problem to have with this ball club with all the guys we have," Berry said.

Each hitter offers something different to a team poised to compete for more than just a division title.

Dirks hit .322 last year for Detroit, second best to only Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. His .336 average against right-handed pitching in 241 at-bats was in the top-ten of the American League. Despite missing 55 games with an Achilles injury in June and July, Dirks emerged as a strong presence in the Tigers lineup, and a rare line of consistency when the team suffered up's and down's throughout the 2012 season.

"What you did last year really has no relevance. Maybe it gives you a little head start as far as playing time, but you have to produce on a daily basis," Dirks said.

"You can go out and stress out about it, or you can go out and enjoy it," he said of the race for the starting position.

Boesch packs perhaps the most potential of the group, excluding Avisail Garcia (who will almost certainly start the year in Toledo). He hit .400 for most of the first half of his rookie season, but since that point he has been on a downward spiral. The most glaring example of his decline was his omission from the team's postseason roster last fall.

The 27-year old said the list of things he worked on in the offseason would take too long to go through, but safe to say he realizes the time is ticking for him to tap into his worth.

"Every year you come into compete, and win a job. It's a fun time," Boesch said.

Berry earned the Tigers attention in Spring Training last year, and made the most of a call-up after Austin Jackson went on the disabled list last season. His production dropped in the latter half of his time with the Tigers, but his speed and energy spark give him an opportunity to at least get a look.

"We're in a good situation to get back to a World Series. I just have to do my job and help be an asset in some way."

Injuries always rear their ugly head, so the logjam in left is indeed a good problem, as long as the competition produces someone worthy of an everyday job.

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