February 12th, 2011

Leyland (and Leyland) arrive at Spring Training

Jim Leyland has been coming to Spring Training for more than 40 years now between his playing, coaching and managing days, so he doesn’t get too excited once he arrives in Lakeland. This year, though, was a little different when his son Patrick rolled into the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium with him and settled into his locker among the non-roster invitees.

“I told him he’s down there on the end, where they usually go fast,” Leyland joked.

Some traditions, however, don’t change, like the one where Leyland sits down in his office upon his arrival at Spring Training and gives his impressions on the state of the team going into camp. As such, there was a decent amount of info coming out of Tigertown today.

The biggest tidbit might be more of an overall theme: Leyland wants to put an emphasis on smarter, more aggressive baserunning this year. They’re not going to become an aggressive team, really, but he wants to work with guys who aren’t good baserunners on learning to run on pitchers who give them the opportunity. In other words, he wants them to take what’s given to them. Think Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge.

“I’m not talking about we’re going to be a running team,” he said, “but I’m talking about a big situation.”

To that effect, they’re going to take advantage of the technology they have. They’ve used cameras to record hitting sessions and batting practice swings for the past several years. This year, they’ll put one on baserunning situations, looking for secondary leads, first steps, etc.

“We really need to maximize our baserunning ability,” Leyland said. “That’s going to be a big thing this spring.”

As for Austin Jackson’s goal of stealing 40 bases this year, Leyland believes he’s capable of that. But he wants to focus on Jackson stealing bases in big situations.

“I want the stolen bases that really benefit the team,” Leyland said. “A basestealer, to me, is the guy that everybody in the park knows he’s going to go, and he goes and steals the base. … Jackson’s going to get his.”

Other tidbits …

  • Don’t expect a lot of news about Carlos Guillen in the opening weeks of camp. Leyland said he’s going to leave Guillen’s situation to the medical staff until he’s closer to action.
    “It’s going to be a slow process, from what I understand,” Leyland said. “I’m going to stay out of it. It’s a process that Carlos and the medical staff are going to take care of. He wants to play so bad.”
  • If and when Guillen’s healthy, he’s going to play second base. He will not shuffle around the infield and outfield. And Guillen playing second base is the preferred scenario for the Tigers. they’d like to work in the younger players — Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes and Danny Worth. Leyland would like to see some improvement from Sizemore and Rhymes defensively, but he expects Sizemore’s health should help that. “I looked at Sizemore last year,” Leyland said, “and he looked like a totally different guy [at TigerFest last month].”
  • Ryan Raburn will only work in left field. “I’d like to put him in left field and forget about him [moving around],” Leyland said. 
  • Don’t rule out Brennan Boesch making the 25-man roster, or getting at-bats in left field. Leyland was upbeat about him Saturday. “He’s got to get back in a groove offensively, and he’s got to improve defensively,” Leyland said. “And I think he will.”
  • Lefty relief is an issue Leyland sees as something they’ll have to solve. So it might not be quite as simple as inserting Daniel Schlereth in place of Phil Coke, slotting Brad Thomas in long and middle relief and going from there.

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