February 23rd, 2014

Kinsler to lead off, Jackson to bat 5th vs. Florida Southern

Brad Ausmus hasn’t yet announced his batting order for the start of the season, and he probably won’t do that for a while. He might well have laid a hint with his lineup for Tuesday’s unofficial Spring Training opener against Florida Southern.

Ausmus didn’t announce the full lineup, but he revealed the top half when asked how many regulars will play in the exhibition game. New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler will bat leadoff, followed by Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Austin Jackson, Detroit’s leadoff man for the better part of four years, will bat fifth.

Ausmus didn’t reveal the rest of the lineup because some players involved hadn’t been informed of his plans. Ausmus has made communication a point of emphasis as manager, and he said early in camp that he doesn’t want players reading about their roles before they’re told anything.

Ever since Kinsler’s arrival in the Prince Fielder trade, Detroit’s leadoff spot has been a mystery. He sat atop of the batting order in Texas for five of the past six seasons, reaching base safely from that spot at a .346 percentage for his career and a .355 rate last season. Austin Jackson has a .344 career OBP, though just .337 last year.

There’s no guarantee that the batting order for a spring-opening exhibition equates to the batting order for Opening Day, even if the regulars are playing. Like his predecessor, Jim Leyland, Ausmus said he plans to play most of his regulars long enough to get one at-bat before substituting for them. In some years, Leyland would put a player near the top of the order to get them that at-bat earlier without having to play in the field for a few innings.