March 1st, 2007

Pudge

I know it’s only the second game of spring training and results don’t mean anything, but Pudge leading off today reminded me of the first day he hit leadoff last season. It made no sense with his lack of walks, his aggressiveness at the plate, and a profound impatience with pitches, but then he stepped to the plate and took a 10-pitch walk. In a way, it was like the night Pudge had to fill in at second base: You get the feeling he can do just about anything if he has to. If someone dared him to try to steal more bases on offense than he allowed on defense, and the Tigers gave him the green light, you get the feeling he’d try to do it.

I’m not saying Pudge should be a leadoff hitter full time, obviously. But take away his walks problem, and he has a lot of abilities that fit into it, most notably his baserunning skills and his ability to fight off good pitches and hit them the other way. He’s an intriguing hitter to watch this month, because he’s a batter without an obvious place in the lineup. His days of hitting third or anywhere around the middle of the order are gone. He’s not that type of hitter anymore. You get the feeling Sean Casey and Craig Monroe would fit sixth and seventh in some combination.

When Jim Leyland was asked if Pudge became a more patient hitter than he gets credit for, Leyland said, "When he wants to be."

So can Ivan Rodriguez really be a No. 8 hitter? Would he fit that mold of second leadoff guy in the ninth spot, even though Brandon Inge seems adept there? But hey, like you’ve already read elsewhere, no lineup questions until later. That’s what we’re left with while camp is going so smoothly.

Other notes of interest:

  • Hopefully Maroth’s outing Thursday starts to quiet the speculation about the fifth starter’s spot. Someone even asked me the other day about Maroth not looking good in a side session. He’s Mike Maroth! He doesn’t throw hard like the glamour starters. He’s not going to look good in side sessions. The way to judge guys like Maroth and Kenny Rogers is against opposing hitters.
  • Every regular except Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield will make the trip to Kissimmee tomorrow to face the Astros. Pudge wasn’t originally on the list, but he was later. All five lefty relief candidates are on the travel list, as is Kyle Sleeth.
  • No more insight into an Opening Day starting pitcher to go up against Roy Halladay, but Leyland said he’ll continue to use Kenny Rogers in the rotation between the young right-handers, Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman.

Bunting

This might be the first time I’ve seen it for a spring training game … the red, white and blue decoration, I mean, not dropping a ball down the line.

Thursday's lineup

All the regulars are starting today for the home opener, but it’s a different order. Ivan Rodriguez gets to lead off against left-hander Jamie Moyer, with Curtis Granderson batting eighth. The 3-4-5 of Sheffield, Guillen and Ordonez remains the same as the exhbition.

  1. Rodriguez, C
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Guillen, SS
  5. Ordonez, RF
  6. Casey, 1B
  7. Monroe, LF
  8. Granderson, CF
  9. Inge, 3B

Leyland said yesterday he hopes to get his regulars three at-bats today, so those early-inning substitutions should be out. Some isolated thunderstorms are supposed to pop up around the state today, but I wouldn’t expect anything to knock out this game.

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