The Detroit Tigers have high hopes for Phil Nevin, and General Manager Joe Klein indicated Wednesday that Nevin probably will be playing in Detroit “on an everyday basis” by September.
Nevin was the No. 1 pick in the 1992 amateur draft after leading Cal State Fullerton to a runner-up finish in the College World Series. The Tigers acquired him Tuesday from Houston, completing a trade that sent relief pitcher Mike Henneman to the Astros.
The move was viewed as a big boost to Nevin’s major league hopes after he spent his third season at triple-A Tucson. Nevin was not immediately available for comment.
Nevin reported to the Tigers Wednesday for a physical examination. He has been troubled by a torn muscle in his rib cage since mid-July.
Nevin will be assigned to the Tigers’ triple-A team in Toledo. “We’re sending him to Toledo to get him healthy, but we expect him to be back with us when the rosters go up in September,” Klein said.
Nevin probably will get some experience playing positions other than third base, where he has spent almost all his time defensively since signing with Houston.
“We’re going to let that sort of evolve for the time being,” Klein said. “But we feel Phil has a lot of versatility, and he has a good arm. We think he could play right field, left field or first base for us as well as third. But what we really like is his bat.”
It appears likely Nevin will be in the outfield when he returns to Detroit.
The Tigers have a strong third baseman in Travis Fryman, who bats third in the lineup and is hitting .291. Fryman hit .300 in 1993 and .263 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Also regarded as a possibility is Fryman returning to shortstop in 1996. Fryman was an International League all-star at shortstop for Toledo before making the transition to third base in his rookie season in 1990.
The trade will allow Nevin to put behind a disappointing performance with the Astros when he was called up for an 18-game stint this season.
Nevin was hitting .291 with seven home runs and 18 runs batted in when he was called up to Houston, but Nevin hit only .117 in 60 at-bats there.
Then when he was told he was being sent back to Tucson just after he went three for five in a game against Colorado, Nevin’s temper flared in a postgame meeting with Manager Terry Collins.
“We think he’ll do well with the Tigers,” Klein said. “Our program right now is in a different stage of development than what Houston’s is, and we think Tiger Stadium will be a better park for him than the Astrodome. We think it’s a good match.”
The Tigers face a major rebuilding job. Detroit has fallen well behind division-leading Boston and is in fourth place, 18 games out, in the American League East.