LAKELAND, Fla. -- Timo Perez is not a complicated player. He's a left-handed line-drive hitter who will step to the plate swinging. He won't strike out a lot, but he won't draw an abundance of walks, either.
With the Tigers' entire starting outfield away at the World Baseball Classic, Perez is getting playing time and doing what he normally does. On Monday, he did it off Cardinals pitching for four hits in five plate appearances.
"You never know," Perez said. "Be ready."
"Timo Perez is probably the best pinch-hitter we've got," manager Jim Leyland said Monday. "We said that in the morning. I mean, he's a prototype pinch-hitter: Go up there and let it fly. He isn't going to go up there looking around, waiting around. If he likes it and puts a swing on it, he whacks it. Sometimes it goes at somebody, sometimes it [falls] in.
"Truthfully, he's probably the best pinch-hitter we've got. But the fact of the matter is, how much do we pinch-hit?"
Not often. But let's back up for a moment a "line-drive hitter" is what, exactly?
A hitter who hits a lot of line drives? Seems like a reasonable enough definition to me. And there might well be a real line-drive hitter buried deep in Perez. But he hasn't hit a great many line drives during his major league career. If he had, his careeer batting average might be .289 rather than .269, his career slugging percentage .432 rather than .382. In roughly three full seasons of at-bats.
In Perez's defense, he's done well in Triple-A. Over the past three years, the vast majority of which he spent at that level, Perez batted .303 with (for him) a fair number of walks and (oddly) 13 homers in each season. Perez is a good Triple-A hitter but then, we would expect a sometime-major leaguer in his early 30s to thrive in the International League.
Is he good enough to play in the majors?
He's exceptionally marginal. There's no evidence that he's much of a fielder at this point, which means he's of little use to the Tigers. He's not a great hitter, or even a good one. But he does hit some line drives and he does bat left-handed. And we should never forget that Lenny Harris played until he was almost 41.