LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers needed to evaluate Andy Ibáñez before making any decisions about his availability to play.
Ibáñez, who turns 30 in early April, is certainly in the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster. He left his teammates playing for Team Cuba in the World Baseball Classic and returned to the Tigers’ facility in Lakeland for an MRI on Friday to get answers about his left finger sprain.
Ibáñez has been cleared for baseball activities and could play Sunday for Team Cuba in the WBC semifinals.
“It’s possible,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He needs to get through (Friday’s) workout, and we may play him tomorrow, may not, depending on how he feels. But it’s still possible that he could rejoin them.”
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Ibáñez, a right-handed hitter, plays third base, second base and first base and thrives against left-handed pitchers. He has received just eight in-game plate appearances since spring training began.
Not playing in spring games for the past three weeks, because of the WBC travel schedule and subsequent finger injury, won’t impact his chances of making the Opening Day roster.
“He would have been gone (from camp) anyway with the WBC,” Hinch said. “Quite honestly, with the WBC, it hasn’t changed really anything with us. We wouldn’t have had him back anyway.”
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Ibáñez was the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day starter at third base last season. He has hit .258 with eight home runs, 24 walks and 56 strikeouts over 116 games in parts of two MLB seasons.
He sprained his left ring finger during an exhibition game while playing for Team Cuba in the WBC. The WBC semifinals for Team Cuba will take place Sunday in Miami, less than 100 miles from where the Tigers play the Washington Nationals on Saturday in West Palm Beach.
“I feel good when I’m playing with the Cuban team, and I feel good when I play with the Detroit team,” Ibáñez said. “It was difficult (to get injured) because I was prepared for those games.”
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