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And Then There Were 25 – The Clete Thomas Story

At this time of year, a big deal is made about the final roster spot.  It all turns out to be moot because while this player gets the privilege of playing in the major leagues, they’re also the most expendable so if they don’t pan out, the 25th man becomes a new 25th man.  Someone else gets hurt and now the 25th man is the 24th man and so on.  The final decision turns out to be all a big deal over nothing, except probably for the guy who makes the team and the handful of people who didn’t make the cut.

That player 25th player happens to be outfielder Clete Thomas.  The Tigers sixth round pick in 2005, Thomas had an exception debut in the season he was drafted.  He demolished New York/Penn League pitching (1.017 OPS in 70 at bats) before getting bumped up to West Michigan, where he finished off the season with some solid numbers (.284/.356/.376).  In 2006, he played the entire season at Lakeland where he appeared to hit a ceiling.  There he hit just .257/.333/.367 with 127 strikeouts.  He did steal 34 bases and he picked up 30 doubles.

He bounced back last year playing for Erie.  He belted a career high eight homers and he saw a 64 point improvement in his OPS (.764 last year for Erie).  He also struck out less (110) and walked three more times in just four more plate appearances.  His base stealing seemed to meet their match though and he stole just 18 bases in 29 attempts.

Then when you combined a solid spring season (.345 batting with a .500 OBP in 26 at bats) with a Curtis Granderon injury and you have your fifth outfielder.  Clete will probably spell Brandon Inge out in center once in a while but his big league at bats will probably come sparingly.  And his time with the club will probably coincide with how long Granderson is out.

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