Jeff Kobernus has played 82 career games above the Single-A level. He has not played in the outfield since college. But the Detroit Tigers will give him every opportunity to earn a chance to play left field in the major leagues in 2013.
The Tigers have made it no secret that they would like to have a right-handed hitter who can play left field along with Andy Dirks, who hits left-handed. Top prospects Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia have a shot to earn that spot, but the Tigers would likely prefer that they start the season in Triple-A Toledo, where they can play every day.
Kobernus, a second baseman with speed, will get a shot.
"Could he possibly be that guy?" Jim Leyland said. "I can't answer that question. But he's going to get every opportunity to show us what he can do."
Kobernus has 120 steals in 290 career games in the minors -- "They tell me he can fly," Leyland said -- so he could fill the same late-innings pinch-running role many have Quintin Berry pegged for. But one major difference that could possibly give Kobernus the edge over Berry is that he bats right-handed and hits left-handers well.
Kobernus hit .326 against left-handers in 2012 for Double-A Harrisburg. He hit .313 with a .357 on-base percentage and a .786 OPS against lefties in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined.
The Boston Red Sox selected Kobernus in the Rule 5 draft in December and traded him to the Tigers. That means the Tigers have to keep him on their major-league roster all season or offer him back to the Washington Nationals, the organization he was with when the Red Sox selected him.
Leyland said Kobernus will work out second base, his natural position, but will also see plenty of time in left field.
Detroit Tigers' Jim Leyland: Speedster Jeff Kobernus 'will get every possible look' as potential outfielder
Michigan Live | Feb 18