Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mike Hessman Poised for Tigers Promotion

With Marcus Thames shown to be a useful if less than spectacular part-time, designated hitter, one wonders how long before Tigers manager Jim Leyland's next shakeup coughs up perennial Triple A farmhand Mike Hessman to take over the bulk of the at-bats at that position.

Leyland has shrugged off the possibility, but noises coming out of Detroit indicate the 6-foot-5, 235-pound, Hessman certainly is being noticed. How could he not be, with his batting average exceeding .300 and slugging approaching a Ruthian .750. The pivotal question appears to be whether Gary Sheffield can hold his own in left field, a coy experiment perhaps designed to make way for Hessman.

Though Hessman at 30 is a late bloomer -- and hit only hit .235 with four homers in 51 at-bats for Detroit last season -- the 2007 International League Player of the Year seems to have hit his stride at Toledo despite a preponderance of strikeouts. The lumbering corner infielder is on a pace to hit more than 25 homers by the All-Star break, as he is knocking them out a pace exceeding one every nine at-bats.

Look for Thames to resume his primary duties as an outfield fill-in, outfielder Matt Joyce to be sent down and for Hessman to be called up before the season's midpoint, if Sheffield remains in left, or fails to stay healthy.