On May 16, 2010, the Detroit Tigers called up a then 24-year-old infielder named Danny Worth to take the place of a struggling Scott Sizemore. At the time, Brandon Inge was still the Tigers’ starting third baseman, Brennan Boesch was looking like he was going to be a mainstay in the Motor City for the next decade, and Johnny Damon was buying his teammates matching bathrobes embroidered with the Old English D on the front. Remember those days?
A lot has changed in the last four years, but one thing has remained the same: Worth is still trying to prove to the Tigers that he is worthy of holding down a big league job. Since his aforementioned debut in 2010, Worth has been bouncing up and down between the big leagues and the minor leagues more times than a superball.
To make matters worse, things seemed to reach an all-time low for him in 2013. After being the final roster cut in Spring Training of last season, Worth suffered an injury in the minor leagues and ended up batting only .220 while splitting time between triple-A Toledo and class-A advanced Lakeland. He eventually received a September call-up, but he was only given two at-bats and struck out in one of them.
This spring, though, Worth seemed to come to camp with a great attitude. Worth put together a stellar Spring Training campaign in which he batted .302 with a homer and 10 RBIs, blowing away his in-house competition of Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez, who were vying for the Tigers’ shortstop vacancy along with him. It could very easily be argued that Worth deserved to head north as the Tigers’ starting shortstop, but once again, he was denied.
Instead of giving the job to Worth, the Tigers swung a trade with the Los Angeles Angels to bring in Andrew Romine, a slick-fielding 28-year-old infielder who only had 152 big league at-bats on his resume. A few days later, the Tigers made another trade with the Baltimore Orioles to bring in Alex Gonzalez, the one-time starting shortstop of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins, who was now 37 years old and proved to have the range of Ty Cobb‘s statue. It turned out that Gonzalez didn’t have much of a bat anymore either.
However, Worth, who should be nicknamed Mr. Resilience, went down to triple-A and began ripping the cover off of the ball. On Apr. 20, Worth was rewarded with a call-up after Gonzalez was released after playing in only nine games. With the exception of a forgettable three-strikeout performance last Friday against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Worth has been a very solid contributor for the Tigers since joining the team. He has made zero errors in 71.2 innings at shortstop and he is currently batting .259, which is .80 points higher than what Romine is hitting.
Worth might be lacking a bit of Romine’s range at shortstop, and he might not be quite as fancy, but he does have a sound glove and a strong throwing arm as evidenced by his 1.000 fielding percentage. If the Tigers do decide to begin plugging Worth in at short more frequently, they will not be losing that much on the defensive end and he will likely give them a better bat than Romine can provide.
If Romine’s offensive woes continue, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Worth could end up getting the majority of the reps at shortstop. After all, what other options do the Tigers have at this point? Signing Stephen Drew is no longer a possibility, and Perez is batting just .244 in Toledo. Suarez is having a nice season in double-A Erie, but he showed signs in Spring Training that he may still be a little raw for the big leagues.
If Worth became the Tigers’ everyday shortstop, it is not inconceivable that he could hit .250-.270 with doubles power, which is about what Drew would have given the Tigers — though he would have been providing it from the left side of the plate. Nobody would lose any sleep over Worth’s defense either.
If Worth is eventually rewarded with a starting gig after being overlooked and passed over so many times, it will be one of the greatest underdog stories of the season.