May 1st, 2011

V-Mart likely batting 5th upon return

The question came up this morning: When Victor Martinez returns from the disabled list this coming week, would he go back to batting fifth? Or would he bat somewhere else in the order.

The answer appears to be fifth.

“If he’s ready, I’ll probably put him right there behind Miguel right away,” Jim Leyland said.

That doesn’t seem to rule out moving him to, say, the third spot down the road. But it seemingly rules out an immediate change.

It’s an interesting conflict. Move Martinez to third, and it gives potentially a hotter hitter in front of Miguel Cabrera, not to mention a different look if the top of the order can get on base for the third guy. But that would remove the veteran run producing bat behind Cabrera, and we all saw what happened with that on Saturday.

Why bunt, or not bunt, Saturday

Meant to post this last night, but didn’t get it online: There were two potential bunting situations that received no shortage of scrutiny last night. The decisions were different in the fifth and 13th innings, but the general idea was the same: Try to get two hitters going in the middle of the order by putting them in situations where they know they can succeed.

The first came in the fifth inning, after Austin Jackson drew a leadoff walk. Leyland opted to have Will Rhymes lay down a sacrifice bunt and move Jackson to second, knowing full well that it would leave first base open for the Indians to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera two batters later.

Leyland did it anyway, because he wanted to create an RBI situation for Magglio Ordonez, his slumping third hitter.

“I’m trying to get Magglio going,” Leyland said. “If Magglio gets a base hit, they can’t walk Cabrera, because [first] base is occupied.”

It goes back to something Leyland said earlier this weekend: If they can’t get production out of Ordonez, it’s going to be tough for them to win. They can put somebody in his place, but they don’t have an obvious candidate to replace his production.

The worst-case scenario Saturday was to bring Boesch, one of their best hitters in April, to the plate with two runners on and two outs. That’s what happened, of course, and Boesch flew out to end the threat on his way to an 0-for-6 night.

The question with Boesch in the 13th was whether to have him bunt once Cabrera led off the inning with a double. It would’ve created a sac fly opportunity for Ryan Raburn, whose fly ball to deep center would’ve driven in a run.

The problem there is two-fold. First, Boesch has one sac bunt in his pro career, majors and minors. To ask him to do it in that situation is a risk. Second, the Tigers didn’t have an obvious option off the bench to lay down a bunt, since they already used Ramon Santiago as a pinch-hitter for Will Rhymes. Don Kelly was the one guy left on the bench with sac bunt experience, and it isn’t as extensive as one might think, having laid down four bunts at Triple-A Toledo.

Sunday: Tigers at Indians

The two lineup moves that were clamored about most online last night happened today, with Austin Jackson moved down from the leadoff spot and Magglio Ordonez getting a day off.

Both moves, however, are temporary, at least for now. Jim Leyland said this morning he wanted to stack left-handed hitters up in the order against Justin Masterson, which explains the Rhymes-Santiago-Kelly trio.

As for Ordonez, Leyland said, “I was planning all along to get Magglio off.”

The Rhymes-Santiago-Kelly trio up top is an effort to load up with left-handed hitters early against Indians starter Justin Masterson. His numbers are great this year, but his splits are extreme: Right-handed hitters are just .138 (8-for-58) against him, while lefties are batting .290 (18-for-62).

TIGERS

  1. Will Rhymes, 2B
  2. Ramon Santiago, SS
  3. Don Kelly, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, DH
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Brandon Inge, 3B
  9. Austin Jackson, CF
P: Phil Coke
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