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Six players making an impression in Tigers camp

@beckjason
March 9, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- There’s a general rule of thumb in the second half of Spring Training: The more a manager is impressed by a player with a chance to make the team, the less that manager will say about a player.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- There’s a general rule of thumb in the second half of Spring Training: The more a manager is impressed by a player with a chance to make the team, the less that manager will say about a player.

The time is coming, then, for Ron Gardenhire to say less about some players in Tigers camp. It’s not quite there yet, though, so as the Opening Day roster begins to take shape, here’s a half-dozen players who have made an impression; some of whom could crash the 25-man roster:

Brandon Dixon
Dixon has shown versatility in the infield -- including some nice plays at third base this week -- while holding his own at the plate, going 5-for-22 with two home runs and four RBIs through Saturday. If the Tigers carry a second utility infielder to pair with Niko Goodrum, it likely comes down to Dixon, Ronny Rodriguez and Gordon Beckham. Dixon is already on the 40-man roster, having been claimed off waivers from the Reds over the offseason.

Daz Cameron
Unless something crazy happens, Cameron isn’t going to make Detroit's Opening Day roster. But his combination of athleticism, instinct and eagerness to learn has made a mark with the manager, and could put him in position for an in-season callup if the Tigers need a center fielder.

“There’s been a lot of talk about how really impressive this kid is,” Gardenhire said, “and I think we’re starting to see it. As of lately, he’s really been playing very good baseball. It might coincide with actually getting more at-bats, rather than sitting and getting one at-bat.”

Jose Manuel Fernandez
Though the lefty reliever struggled in his brief stint with the Blue Jays last year, the Tigers saw the arm and claimed him off waivers last November. The 26-year-old has been a borderline power arm in the bullpen this spring, tossing four scoreless innings with two strikeouts after impressing in his early sessions.

“He’s got a good arm,” Gardenhire said. “He knows how to move the ball. He’s been around a little bit. We like to see it.”

Dustin Peterson
What began as a seemingly innocuous campaign to prove himself to his former club has become a breakout spring for Peterson, who led the Grapefruit League in RBIs until the last day or two. With Goodrum back in a utility spot and Mikie Mahtook out of options, Peterson’s chances are long to crack the roster. An in-season callup, however, could be a strong possibility.

“He’s game-on. He’s working hard,” the Tigers' manager said. “That’s what you have to do when you come into camp, show people what you can do.”

Ronny Rodriguez
The Tigers wanted Rodriguez to make his swing more efficient -- in other words, eliminate the over-the-head bat waggle and other quirks to become quicker to the ball. He has done that, while maintaining his power; three of his seven hits through Saturday were home runs, with another for a double.

Spencer Turnbull
While Turnbull is expected to open the season at Triple-A Toledo, on call for a rotation spot in Detroit in case of injury, Gardenhire insists he’s a rotation candidate now. Either way, Turnbull's six innings with six strikeouts have built on the strong first impression he made with the skipper last September.

“He’s going to be in the mix for me,” Gardenhire said earlier in camp. “I probably like him better than a lot of other people out there as far as thinking he’s ready for this on an everyday basis.”

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