Slumping Monroe designated for assignment
NEW YORK -- In a bold move during a tense pennant race, the Detroit Tigers called up touted prospect Cameron Maybin on Friday and cut slumping outfielder Craig Monroe, a key member of their World Series team last season.
The 20-year-old Maybin, with only six games of experience in Double-A, had a difficult major league debut at Yankee Stadium. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts while batting second and playing a shaky, though errorless, left field in a 6-1 loss to New York.
"I didn't do anything well tonight. I never let the game come to me," Maybin said. "I'm happy to have the first one out of the way, absolutely. I was jacked up tonight. Now I can go out and relax. With repetition, everything will come along."
Drafted 10th overall in 2005 out of high school in North Carolina, the multiskilled Maybin is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. In fact, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who also built winning teams in Montreal and Florida, called him the best position-player prospect he's had in any organization.
"I don't know if he's ready. We'll see. This is a big jump, but he can make a lot of things happen because he can run," Dombrowski said before the game. "It changes the look of our ballclub. We've become a little more athletic."
Maybin was on a bus to Altoona, Pa., when he got the news Thursday night from Matt Walbeck, his manager at Double-A Erie.
Now, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder has been thrust into an important role for the defending AL champions -- in the middle of a tight playoff chase.
"I'm totally excited. That lets me know they have confidence in me," Maybin said.
The Tigers fell out of first place in the AL Central, a half-game behind Cleveland.
"We brought him up to play. It's not like we've got to keep playing him if he scuffles," Dombrowski said. "We'll see what happens. It's up to him to perform. We think he has those capabilities. If not, it's a situation where his makeup and his ability, I don't think that it will harm him with any long-term effects by any means. We think it has a chance to work. If it doesn't, then we'll play some of the other guys at that time."
Maybin, normally a center fielder, said shifting to left was difficult.
"Oh man, it's different. The ball goes all different ways. It's an adjustment I have to make," he said.
Maybin took an awkward angle on Andy Phillips' two-run double to left-center in the sixth.
"I had a good bead on it. I had a great jump. I just lost it in the lights," he said.
The 30-year-old Monroe, who had lost his starting job in left field to Marcus Thames, was hitting only .222 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 99 games.
Like several teammates, Monroe had recently been sidelined because of the flu. The Tigers have 10 days to trade, release or send him outright to the minors.
"He had a lot of big moments for us," Dombrowski said. "Craig has scuffled a little bit over the last couple of months. I think probably for him a change of scenery will be beneficial at this time. That's why it's with mixed emotions, because we like Craig and what he did for us."
Monroe batted .255 with 28 homers and 92 RBIs last year, then tied a franchise record by hitting five home runs in the postseason. He also tied for second among AL outfielders with 12 assists.
Monroe signed a one-year contract for $4,775,000 in the offseason, getting a raise from $2.8 million.
Maybin started the season at Class-A Lakeland, hitting .304 with 10 homers, 44 RBIs and 25 stolen bases before being promoted to Erie. The Tigers purchased his contract after he hit .400 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 20 at-bats at Double-A.
"Obviously, he had a tough debut," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He's very talented. The tiers on the stadium, it's tougher to pick up the ball. He's going to be fine. He'll play tomorrow. I think he was probably a little anxious."
Before the game, Leyland wouldn't commit to a plan for Maybin, but it's clear the kid was called up to show what he can do.
"When you say every day -- I don't know how it's going to play out," Leyland said. "We would have never brought him up to sit."
Maybin expected his parents to be in attendance Friday night. His cousin is Rashad McCants of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, a former star at North Carolina.
"What better place to have your debut than Yankee Stadium?" Maybin said before the game. "I'm excited, but I'm pretty relaxed and calm. This is what I've been looking forward to. I'm just going to go out and have fun, man, enjoy it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press