SARASOTA, Fla. -- Omar Infante is a 35-year-old with 1,507 games in the Major Leagues. Brendan Ryan just turned 35 last Sunday. As Infante ran down Trey Mancini's ground ball up the middle Thursday and shoveled it to Ryan, he might as well have been running back in time."That was
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Omar Infante is a 35-year-old with 1,507 games in the Major Leagues. Brendan Ryan just turned 35 last Sunday. As Infante ran down Trey Mancini's ground ball up the middle Thursday and shoveled it to Ryan, he might as well have been running back in time.
"That was a fun one," Ryan said of the inning-ending double play in the Tigers' 7-3 win over the Orioles.
It was a microcosm of Infante's Spring Training, in which he proved he still has some Major League productivity left in him after injuries slowed him down the last couple of seasons and left him looking for an opportunity this spring. Infante couldn't crack the Tigers' roster, and he might not be anywhere in the big leagues come Opening Day next week, but he proved he's far from finished.
"He showed he's still got life in his body, he can still play baseball at a Major League level," manager Brad Ausmus said.
The double play brought back memories of Infante as a young infield prospect in the Tigers' system 15 years ago. With two runners on and one out, Mancini's second-inning grounder seemed headed into center to drive in a run off Matthew Boyd. Infante rushed over from the right side to stop it, saving that run.
"I'm moving much better this year," said Infante, "because my legs feel good, my body feels good. I think I'm running faster. I worked on my legs, my body, everything. I think that's why I'm moving better."
But Infante wasn't finished. As he fielded the ball, he flipped it behind him to second base, where Ryan was scrambling to cover. Though Ryan said teammates later joked with him that he should have tried something fancier, he said he wanted to make sure to get the third out. So after dodging Chris Davis sliding into second base, Ryan made a sidearm throw to first.
The play came an inning after Infante hit his first home run of the spring, a solo shot off Dylan Bundy. It was his only hit of the day, but Infante's batting .357 (15-for-42) in Grapefruit League play, with five doubles, five RBIs and a stolen base.
On most clubs, that's good enough for a roster spot, at least as a utility player. But with Ian Kinsler at second base, Jose Iglesias at shortstop and prospect Dixon Machado at utility infield, Infante didn't have much of a chance.
"He's had a good spring," Ausmus said. "We just don't have a spot for him. He's hit the ball well, played good defense, run better than I expected."
From the outset of camp, it was clear Infante was auditioning for other clubs as much or more than the Tigers. For the next couple of days, he'll be waiting to hear from those clubs. If he has an opportunity, the Tigers have made it clear they'll let him go. If nothing arises, Infante plans to stick in the organization and report to Triple-A Toledo, where he'd be teammates again with Ryan.
"I have to continue to play, try to keep my bat in shape, keep working," Infante said. "Maybe in the future, I'll get an opportunity. That's what I'm looking for, the opportunity in the big leagues. If I have to go to Triple-A, I'll go. I want to play. I want to keep trying. We'll see what happens."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.