By Jim Callis
November 15, 2002
It wasn’t a blockbuster that immediately will reverse the fortunes of two clubs that struggled more than expected in 2002. But on Friday, both the Tigers and Padres may have found lineup fodder for next season when Detroit acquired outfielder Gene Kingsale from San Diego for catcher Mike Rivera.
Kingsale, 26, had been notable for his blazing speed and for being the first Aruban to reach the major leagues. Originally signed by the Orioles in 1993, he had been unable to do much with the bat until joining the Padres last June after being claimed off waivers from the Mariners. In 89 games with San Diego, Kingsale batted .278-2-28 with nine steals and a decent .346 on-base percentage. In 172 career games, he has hit .264-2-45 with 14 steals. His game is mostly about speed, which makes him a threat on the bases and a solid center fielder. Kingsale has little strength to speak off, so he needs to get on base to be effective offensively. The Tigers will give him a chance to be their center fielder and leadoff man in 2003.
After hitting 33 Double-A homers in 2001, the 26-year-old Rivera was Detroit’s Opening Day catcher this year. Brandon Inge eventually returned to the top of the Tigers’ depth chart, so Rivera was farmed out in May. Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Puerto Rico, he’s more advanced offensively than defensively. His power-hitting game wasn’t suited for Comerica Park—he hit .236-1-12 in 43 big league games—but he could catch regularly for the Padres if he improves his plate discipline (37 strikeouts, four walks in 144 major league at-bats) and makes more progress behind the plate. He did combat basestealers effectively, erasing 34 percent during his stay with Detroit.