March 30th, 2014
What was long suspected became reality Sunday with the release of the Opening Day lineup: Austin Jackson is no longer the leadoff man in Detroit.
What was not anticipated also became a fact: Austin Jackson is now the man batting behind the Tigers’ big two run producers, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Jackson will bat fifth on Monday, partly out of his phenomenal Spring Training, partly out of the lack of any proven options.
“I think the middle part of the lineup, below Victor, is where you probably have a little more gray area and can shift people around if necessary,” Ausmus said.
If there was a spot where Ausmus could use a hot bat, that was it. None were hotter in Spring Training than Jackson, who hit .429 (24-for-56) in Grapefruit League play with nine extra-base hits, two home runs and 14 RBIs.
“He’s hit there really for the majority of Spring Training and he’s looked exceptional,” Ausmus said. “Does that necessarily mean it’s going to carry over? No, but right now I feel he’s the best option in that spot.”
The matchup also potentially favors Jackson, a right-handed hitter who fares better against right-handed pitchers (.291 career, .296 last year) than lefties (.246, .213). Royals Opening Day starter James Shields, in turn, is a right-hander who gives up a higher batting average to righties (.264 career, .272 last year) than lefties (.249, .233). More to the point, Jackson is 8-for-25 with three walks lifetime off Shields, including 8-for-21 the last two seasons.
TIGERS (career numbers off Big James Shields)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-41, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (15-for-46, 4 doubles, 12 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-40, 6 doubles, 2 HR, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-34, 9 K’s)
- Austin Jackson, CF (8-for-25, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (6-for-21, HR, walk, 10 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Gonzalez, SS (0-for-7, K)
- Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-14, triple, 3 K’s)
P: Justin Verlander
ROYALS (career numbers off Verlander)
- Norichika Aoki, RF
- Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-1)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (9-for-39, HR, 4 walks, 8 K’s)
- Billy Butler, DH (30-for-68, 2 HR, 8 walks, 9 K’s)
- Alex Gordon, LF (14-for-66, 2 HR, 7 walks, 24 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (8-for-21, HR, 4 K’s)
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (6-for-33, HR, walk, 7 K’s)
- Lorenzo Cain, CF (2-for-9, 3 K’s)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (8-for-40, walk, 4 K’s)
P: James Shields