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Tigers have multiple dark-horse candidates

Amarista, Norris, Adduci highlight group looking to snag roster spot
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- At first glance, Alexi Amarista looks like one of the college interns who work around the clubhouse every Spring Training, not one of the non-roster invitees competing for a utility spot on the Tigers' Opening Day roster.

Amarista is listed at 5-foot-6, and even that might be generous. His face looks younger than 28. But then he takes infield work, and it's abundantly clear why the Tigers brought him in. And as the team looks for a utility player to fill the role Andrew Romine handled for years, it's not hard to envision Amarista winning the job.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- At first glance, Alexi Amarista looks like one of the college interns who work around the clubhouse every Spring Training, not one of the non-roster invitees competing for a utility spot on the Tigers' Opening Day roster.

Amarista is listed at 5-foot-6, and even that might be generous. His face looks younger than 28. But then he takes infield work, and it's abundantly clear why the Tigers brought him in. And as the team looks for a utility player to fill the role Andrew Romine handled for years, it's not hard to envision Amarista winning the job.

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The Tigers clearly respect Amarista's seven years of Major League experience. When the coaching staff divided up players to different fields during defensive drills for full-squad workouts this week, it put Amarista with the big league regulars.

The Tigers have a good number of spots taken for a rebuilding club. But when rebuilding teams first re-make their roster, the roles that tend to be up for grabs are the ones that either don't have an incumbent, or don't have a ready-made prospect in line to take it. The utility roles on the Tigers' roster falls into that gray area.

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Here's a look at a few dark-horse candidates to grab a roster spot:

Amarista: He was once a regular starting shortstop with the Padres, before transitioning into a utility role the past few seasons in San Diego and Colorado. The 28-year-old played every position but first base and catcher last year, and he made appearances as an emergency pitcher in 2015 and '16. He doesn't hit much, with a .231 career average and .599 OPS, but he's a left-handed batter and an efficient baserunner.

OF Jim Adduci: Last year's early-season success story is back in Tigers camp on a non-roster invite, and he's healthy after an oblique injury ruined his hot start at the plate last year. Detroit has a different outfield than the one Adduci cracked last year upon his April callup, but the club could still use a left-handed hitter to mix in the corners with Mikie Mahtook and Nicholas Castellanos.

Video: DET@BAL: Adduci drives his first homer to left field

C Derek Norris: The Tigers pretty much have their catching duo with James McCann and John Hicks, but new manager Ron Gardenhire is open to carrying three catchers, something he did at times in Minnesota. Any health concerns with Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez in camp could lead to this, with Hicks getting potential time at first base and/or DH. If they go this route, Norris or Brayan Pena could benefit, but Norris is seven years younger.

RHP Mark Montgomery: The bullpen competition is wide open, and Montgomery is coming off a stellar season in the Cardinals' farm system, having allowed just 46 hits over 66 2/3 innings with 73 strikeouts at Triple-A Memphis.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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