Once upon a time there was Lou Whitaker. For two decades, he anchored second base for the Tigers as they thrived at baseball's up-the-middle infield stations.

Since then, well, fans can thank the trade market for any second-base stability: Damion Easley, Placido Polanco, Omar Infante.

They might, at last, have a homegrown answer once Infante departs, which could be at the end of this season if an impending free agent fails to re-up with Detroit.

Hernan Perez, who for some time has been on the highly regarded list, has had a pleasant April at Double A Erie. He was batting .342 through nine games after Sunday's 8-5 loss to Reading. He had a .375 on-base percentage, with one home run and five doubles.

Perez has been doing about what the Tigers expected, a group that includes manager Jim Leyland.

"He's one of my and the coaches' favorites," Leyland said at the end of spring camp in Florida. "We think he's really going to be a good big league player. He's got a good feel for things at a young age (22 last month). He's got a great idea of how to hit."

Erie manager Chris Cron agrees.

"He hasn't missed a beat," Cron said Saturday, as the SeaWolves waited to play Reading on a typically cold, moist April day. "It's hard enough to coach or to manage in this kind of weather, let alone play in it. But he's gotten through it. He's really off to a good start."

Perez is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound, right-handed hitter who was signed in 2007 out of Aragua, Venezuela. He had a two-game shot with the Tigers last season when a roster hole mandated that Detroit promote a fill-in second baseman who was then playing at Single A Lakeland.

His path to Detroit is now more direct. And, if it happens, it will be less because of a roster emergency and more because Perez will have earned a legitimate big league shot.