June 9th, 2011

Leyland on Magglio: He’s got to hit

The Tigers and Jim Leyland are on board with Magglio Ordonez’s plan to rejoin the Tigers next Monday, though their roster move to keep an extra reliever looks in hindsight like they thought Ordonez might be coming back a little sooner. But Jim Leyland had some pretty interesting comments Thursday when asked about fitting Ordonez into a lineup that has its outfield bats suddenly heating up.

“If Magglio, obviously, is Magglio Ordonez, we’ll find a way to have him in the lineup, if he’s a productive hitter,” Leyland said Thursday.

Leyland cautioned he wasn’t trying to lay down any ultimatums or anything. But long story short, he was making the point that the early-season form for Ordonez isn’t going to get it done.

“Magglio’s got to hit. That’s just the way it is,” Leyland said. “That’s what his forte is. That’s what we need him to do. He’s not going to steal bases. He’s not going to play defense as well as [Casper] Wells. So we need his bat, and that professional bat, I think, when it’s all said and done, will be very important for us.

“But I guess to simplify it, you put the best players out there, guys who give you the best chance to win. That’s pretty how much it is, and that’s what you’re supposed to do as manager. Magglio’s here to hit and be a real productive offensive hitter. That’s what he’s here for. So we’ll have to wait and see.”

Ordonez, no doubt, is well aware of needing to hit better than he did early in the season. If he wasn’t, he probably wouldn’t be taking a few extra days on rehab in Toledo to try to get his timing down at the plate.

Unless something totally unexpected happens, the Tigers will keep all their current outfielders on the roster when Ordonez returns, instead getting rid of an extra reliever. Adam Wilk, who was called up as a fill-in for the Tigers bullpen when David Purcey went on paternity leave, is still here, even though Purcey returned from paternity leave Monday.

That leaves at least four outfielders for three spots, not counting Wells and his starts against left-handed pitchers. All of those other outfielders are youngsters, but all of them are going well right now.

“You don’t know for sure if these kids are going to keep it up, or are some of [the pitchers] going to catch up,” Leyland said. “You just have to play it [out]. But it’s kind of like the old saying: You kind of ride the hot horse.”

Leyland sounds prepared to do just that.

“There are only nine spots, but I’m going to put out the guys that give us the best chance to win, and it really doesn’t matter what the names are,” he said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s what I get paid to do. Hopefully, if Magglio comes up and is close what he has been as a productive offensive player, he’ll be a big lift for us before it’s all said and done, believe me. If he doesn’t hit, that’s a different story. That’s just the facts.”

Thursday: Tigers vs. Mariners

Not much to say here. Mike Carp gets a shot against Justin Verlander, as does Dutch-born slugger Greg Halman, who’s 6-for-7 with a sacrifice bunt since getting called up to the big leagues earlier this month.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Brennan Boesch, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Ryan Raburn, 2B

P: Justin Verlander

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Brendan Ryan, SS
  3. Adam Kennedy, 1B
  4. Miguel Olivo, C
  5. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
  6. Mike Carp, DH
  7. Greg Halman, LF
  8. Luis Rodriguez, 3B
  9. Jack Wilson, 2B

P: Doug Fister

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