Leyland is going to rotate his corner outfielders
The Tigers came into Tuesday’s game against the Yankees weighting their lineup towards right-handed hitters against Phil Hughes, a right-hander who has been far tougher on lefties than righties this year. They won in part with two RBI singles from Andy Dirks and two tough at-bats from Brennan Boesch, both left-handed hitters.
On Wednesday, they’ll face an actual left-handed pitcher, CC Sabathia, who has been tough on left-handed hitters for the better part of a decade. And so, manager Jim Leyland will give Jeff Baker, the right-handed utilityman they acquired over the weekend, his first playing time with a start in left field. Gerald Laird will start behind the plate (hopefully finishing the game this time), and Ramon Santiago will start in place of Jhonny Peralta, who’s a right-handed hitter but who’s 2-for-20 off Sabathia.
This is the flexibility Leyland wanted from his roster down the stretch, particularly in the outfield. He admits he felt starting pitcher was a bigger priority than extra right-handed bat, but he still wanted the latter to fill out the roster. Now that he has what he needed, he says he’s going to try to get everyone involved, particularly in the outfield. But it won’t be easy.
“We have a chance right now to have everybody involved,” Leyland said. “Everybody has a chance to be a hero. But everybody’s got to buy in.”
With that in mind, Leyland said he met with all of his outfielders earlier this week and tried to let them know his plans.
“I told them, ‘I can play four of six every day, but I can’t play you all every day,’” he said. “I explained it to them so everybody knows their situation and everybody knows they might not be in the lineup every day with the exception of [Austin] Jackson. Everybody knows pretty much what they’re going to be doing and you just ask them to be on board and be patient with it, because I’m happy with all the outfielders. But I can only play three in the outfield and one DH. That’s four; we got six. That’s fun but it also keeps people fresh.”
That holds especially true against most right-handed starters, since they have three left-handed hitters in Boesch, Dirks and Quintin Berry. Leyland said Tuesday night that he’ll start Berry on Thursday against Hiroki Kuroda. It’ll be Berry’s first start in five days.
“When you have a dilemma, and it’s a good dilemma, you meet it head-on,” Leyland said.