Henry Proves He's Not Just Spare Part For Tigers
DETROIT—Entering last spring, infielder Justin Henry was viewed as a spare part in the Tigers organization.
But what a difference a year—a very productive year—has made for the 26-year-old Mississippi native.
Henry, a ninth-round pick in 2007, had a solid season at the plate and in the field for Double-A Erie in 2011, then followed up with a strong performance for the Aguilas in the Venezuelan League.
That effort helped persuade the Tigers to give Henry a non-roster invitation to spring training.
"Justin Henry had an unbelievable season in winter ball in Venezuela," Triple-A Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. "You can look at it the same way you look at Andy Dirks last season.
"Justin is in the same situation, and you can look for that to possibly carry over."
After splitting time between Erie and Toledo in 2010, Henry hit .309/.410/.404 for the SeaWolves last season while stealing 21 bases.
He continued his strong play in Venezuela, batting .328/.404/.384 in 52 games for the Aguilas and finishing sixth in the league batting race.
"It says a lot for a guy to go down there for the entire three months and play every day," Nevin said. "It's a different culture and a different atmosphere. And to thrive in that intense atmosphere every day says a lot about that player."
What adds to Henry's attractiveness is his versatility. He played in the outfield 92 times for Erie last season, seeing action in all three spots and contributing six outfield assists. He also saw time at all four infield positions.
Of course, his versatility comes as no surprise to fans at Mississippi, where he was named to the SEC's all-tournament team three years in a row while playing both second base and center field.
• The Tigers released another Mississippi alum, righthander Cody Satterwhite, who was a 2008 second-round pick. Shoulder troubles sidelined Satterwhite for all of the 2010 season and limited him to just eight innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season. The shoulder trouble slowed his fastball, which at one time had flashed into the mid-90s, down to the mid-80s last year.
• Detroit signed righthander Warwick Saupold after the native of Australia pitched well in the Australian Baseball League this winter. The 22-year-old led the league in ERA (1.51), WHIP (0.93) and innings (70) and finished third with 53 strikeouts.