Saturday: Don Kelly Opening Day — Tigers vs. O’s

Bud Norris gave up a .315 batting average and .889 OPS to left-handed hitters last season, compared with .241 and .629 from right-handers. So if you’re going to pick a spot for left-handed hitting Don Kelly to get his first start of the season, this one makes more sense than others, though it comes at the expense of sitting Nick Castellanos while he’s swinging a hot bat. Right-handed hitting Rajai Davis keeps the start in left.

Baltimore welcomes back J.J. Hardy to the lineup after he missed Friday’s opener with back spasms. Interesting decision by manager Buck Showalter to move Nelson Cruz to the second spot and shift Nick Markakis down to fifth.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Norris)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-2, walk)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-6, HR)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Alex Avila, C (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  7. Alex Gonzalez, SS (3-for-6, double)
  8. Don Kelly, 3B (1-for-5, K)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-2, K)

P: Rick Porcello

ORIOLES (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. David Lough, LF (2-for-5, double, K)
  2. Nelson Cruz, RF (4-for-20, 6 K’s)
  3. Chris Davis, 1B (4-for-12, 3 HR, 4 K’s)
  4. Adam Jones, CF (3-for-18, 6 K’s)
  5. Nick Markakis, DH (8-for-19, double, HR, 2 walks, K)
  6. J.J. Hardy, SS (6-for-15, double, 3 K’s)
  7. Matt Wieters, C (4-for-11, double, 2 walks, K)
  8. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
  9. Jonathan Schoop, 3B

P: Bud Norris

Friday: Tigers vs. Orioles

I’m off today. Chris Vannini and Matt Slovin will have the Tigers coverage this weekend from Comerica Park. Still, I figured I’d post the lineups for today. The Tigers lineup should look awfully familiar from yesterday. The Orioles lineup features former Tiger (even if he never played a regular-season game in a Detroit uniform) Steve Lombardozzi at second base, but no J.J. Hardy, who is being rested with back spasms.

Weatherwise, a day that began with dense fog this morning turned to midday rain, which delayed first pitch until 1:15pm. Topping it all off, there’s a wind advisory for this afternoon. This seems like the true April in the D.

Here are the lineups for today’s series opener against the O’s:

TIGERS (career numbers off Miguel Gonzalez)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-7, double, HR, walk)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-6, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-1, HR, 2 walks)
  6. Alex Avila, C (1-for-4, 2 walks, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-10, HR, K)

P: Anibal Sanchez

ORIOLES (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Nick Markakis, RF (1-for-3, double)
  2. David Lough, LF (0-for-4, walk)
  3. Adam Jones, CF (2-for-3)
  4. Chris Davis, 1B
  5. Nelson Cruz, DH (1-for-4, HR, K)
  6. Steve Clevenger, C
  7. Jonathan Schoop, 3B
  8. Ryan Flaherty, SS
  9. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B (0-for-3)

P: Miguel Gonzalez

Tigers-Royals postponed, Sanchez pushed to Friday

As expected, the cold, rainy forecast across Michigan this afternoon led to an early postponement of today’s Tigers-Royals finale at Comerica Park. The game will be made up with a 1:08 contest on Thursday, June 19, tacked onto the end of the Royals’ next trip into town. It was an off day for both teams, and neither would be playing 21 days in a row.

As for the Tigers rotation, Anibal Sanchez — who hasn’t faced Major League hitters in a game setting since March 12 — has been bumped to Friday’s series opener against the Orioles. Rick Porcello moves back to Saturday, while Justin Verlander stays on turn Sunday. That means Drew Smyly’s spot will be skipped, which makes sense given Brad Ausmus’ previous statements on watching Smyly’s innings. With three off-days in an eight-day span starting next week, the Tigers could go without a fifth starter until April 19 and pitch Smyly in relief until then if they wanted.

Game 3: Tigers vs. Royals (weather permitting)

Radar

Neither the radar nor the forecast look promising for baseball today at Comerica Park. It might be an easier decision, though, if the rain arrives before game time rather than during the game. As Brad Ausmus pointed out, it would be easier to push back the rotation and start Anibal Sanchez on Friday than it would be to have a rain delay knock out Sanchez around the third inning and leave the bullpen to cover the rest of the game.

The Tigers and Royals have a common off day June 19, the day after their next series here in Detroit. Playing that day wouldn’t cause either team to play more than 20 days in a row.

Sanchez has been a magnet for bad weather lately. Between Spring Training rainouts, his shoulder scare and a rainout last Saturday at Washington, he hasn’t faced Major League hitters in a game setting since March 12.

“Sanchie’s going to start our next game, whenever that is,” Ausmus said. “I think the bigger concern is we don’t want to be in a situation where Sanchie goes out there, throws two innings and then all of a sudden we get rained out. For us, that would be the worst-case scenario.”

At the same time, Ausmus said, Justin Verlander will not be shifted from his next starting assignment Sunday against the Orioles. That means Rick Porcello or, more likely, Drew Smyly would be skipped in the rotation this weekend. Considering they’re already keeping an eye on Smyly’s innings, skipping him might make more sense.

If this game does get played, Andrew Romine is scheduled to make his first start at shortstop, which Ausmus said is mainly intended to give 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez a day off, rather than a matchup play. That would leave Don Kelly and Bryan Holaday as the two Tigers yet to play in a game, and Ausmus said he’d like to get both in a game before they head to the West Coast next week for Interleague Play.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROYALS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Norichika Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-18, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (3-for-16, K)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (4-for-15, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (5-for-15, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (0-for-9, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B (1-for-10, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  8. Lorenzo Cain, CF (3-for-10)
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS (4-for-15, 3 K’s)

P: Yordano Ventura

Game 2: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

Joe Nathan has inflicted plenty of pain on the Tigers over the years. He’s 36-for-36 in save chances against them, including 19-for-19 at Comerica Park. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against them in Game 163 back in 2009. He held Detroit to 2-for-20 with no runs scored in 2005, then 2-for-26 with no runs in 2008.

None of that damage he inflicted against the Tigers would compare to the damage he could do as a Tiger if he had nothing left. And as the tweets chimed in after Nathan’s blown save Wednesday, one blown save, you could sense the panic in Tigertown.

“89 mph on Nathan’s fastball,” one tweet read. “Two years/$20 million down the drain without getting any productive outings out of him.”

“Glad we got that lockdown closer!” another tweet read.

“Joe Nathalverde,” chimed in another.

It’s like the grand final act in his tormenting the Tigers! Except, well, no. It’s one outing, and he’s still Joe Nathan.

That doesn’t mean the Tigers got Nathan near his prime, because they didn’t. But they also didn’t get a broken-down closer, either.

More than a few people remarked about Nathan’s velocity, but he has averaged 94 mph on his fastball only once since 2008. He averaged just over 92 mph last year during his dominant season, and he averaged just over 91 mph on Wednesday, according to data from brooksbaseball.net. The power-throwing closer from the Twins days changed his game a while ago, well before he turned 39 years old, focusing on three different pitches and different looks. Besides, Max Scherzer averaged exactly 92 mph on his fastball Wednesday, so Nathan had company.

Second, to say the Tigers didn’t get any productive outings out of Nathan not only panics after two outings, it ignores the scoreless ninth inning Nathan threw on Opening Day before the Tigers scored the winning run in the bottom half.

Third, the only base hit Nathan allowed Wednesday was a one-out ground-ball single up the middle from Omar Infante.

“He hit a pretty decent pitch, got it on the end of the bat but got enough of it to get it to the outfield grass. Pretty good pitch,” Nathan said. “That’s the difference between two out, nobody on and a man on that ends up stealing a base and now you’re facing some good hitters with the tying run in scoring position.

“Fell behind Hosmer 3-0 and tried to make some really good pitches away, tried to be as fine as I can. You don’t want him hurting you when you’re down 3-0, especially when you’ve still got a chance to maybe get a double play ball with Butler. He gets up and we had a grinder at-bat. I thought I might have had a chance when we got to a spot to throw a curveball after feeding him a bunch of sliders and fastballs. Went to a curveball that might have had a chance and he fouled off a pretty good pitch that I felt I might have been able to get him on, and then from there you’ve just gotta hope you can get him to maybe chase one. You don’t want to give in to him and feed him a slider for a strike. He’s been known to hit some gaps and he could have done some more damage.

“Bases-loaded, one out with Gordon, you never want to give up the lead but you also don’t want them taking the lead either. So we’ll take a fly ball the opposite way to tie the game and try to at least extend that game, give ourselves a chance to win it or go extra innings.”

The fly ball to left from Gordon carried deep enough to easily score Pedro Ciriaco. That was all Nathan allowed. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t disaster either.

So, everyone take a deep breath. And please, if you still need to vent and compare Nathan to past Tigers closers Todd Jones, Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit, at least give Fernando Rodney the professional respect to put him on the list, right?

Play of the game: By the game Wednesday’s game ended, it seemed like hours since Tyler Collins made his diving grab in short left field to rob Alex Gordon on a leadoff hit in the second. But it was no less important with the game’s late developments, because it helped Max Scherzer settle in and take over the game from there.

Biggest out: Long before Billy Butler battled to get a walk out of Nathan in the ninth inning, he swung at Scherzer’s 3-0 pitch with two men on and one out. Even for a guy who’s 11-for-29 with four home runs lifetime when putting 3-0 pitches in play, it was amazing.

“I’m not mad at myself for swinging at that,” Butler said later. “I got the green light, got a good pitch to hit and just got a bad result.”

Strategy session: Brad Ausmus went with the reverse splits and not only started Collins in left field, but batted him second. He went 0-for-3 with a fielder’s choice, reaching base when replay confirmed he had beaten a double-play throw to first.

Strategy session, part 2: For those who grew used to seeing Jim Leyland visit the mound only to make a pitching change or line up the infield, rarely ever to judge his pitcher, seeing Ausmus have a lengthy mound visit with two outs in the ninth and Alcides Escobar at the plate had to be a throwback.

“He asked me how I’m doing,” Scherzer said alter. “I was honest. I told him I was tired. When it got down to it, I wanted to face Escobar, I wanted to get out of that inning. Fortunately I was able to make the pitches to do that.”

Shortstop watch: Alex Gonzalez went 1-for-4 with an infield single, and was thrown out at home plate on a ground ball to third. He did not have any glaring misplays at short.

Line of the day: Ian Kinsler had half of Detroit’s hits, going 3-for-5 with a solo homer, a walkoff single and two RBIs.

Stat of the day: 1: No-decisions Scherzer has taken as a Tiger when delivering six or more shutout innings in an outing. After the highest run support in the Majors last year, perhaps it was karma.

Game 2: Tigers vs. Royals

Tyler Collins didn’t have to wait as long as expected for his first Major League start. Not only is in the lineup for the second game of the season, he’s batting second, directly in front of Miguel Cabrera.

It’s a pretty big spot to have a left-handed hitter facing a left-handed pitcher, but in both cases, the splits are reversed. Left-handed hitters batted .327 (53-for-162) off Jason Vargas last season, and .263 off him the past five seasons, five points higher than righties have hit him in the same span.

At the same time, Tyler Collins raked against lefties last year at Double-A Erie, hitting them for a .289 average (41-for-142), 11 home runs and a .953 OPS, compared with a .219 average (71-for-324), 10 homers and a .676 OPS against righties.

By hitting him second, too, Ausmus freed up Torii Hunter to bat fifth behind Victor Martinez. That bumps down Austin Jackson, whose tendencies to struggle off lefties presents a bad matchup against Vargas.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Vargas)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (12-for-44, 5 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  2. Tyler Collins, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-8, double, HR, 4 walks, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-1)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-29, 4 doubles, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
  6. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-14, 3 K’s)
  7. Alex Avila, C (2-for-6, double, HR)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Alex Gonzalez, SS (2-for-3, double)

P: Max Scherzer

ROYALS (career numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Norichika Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-25, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (12-for-47, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (11-for-28, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 7 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (7-for-18, double, 2 HR, 2 K’s)
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B (3-for-23, double, 7 K’s)
  8. Lorenzo Cain, CF (0-for-9, 3 K’s)
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS (7-for-29, 2 HR, 6 K’s)

P: Jason Vargas

While Drew loses tag, Yankees DFA Nunez

Tuesday was a big day for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. With the regular season officially underway for nearly every Major League team, Drew no longer has to worry about being saddled with draft pick compensation if he hits the free-agent market next winter. That means a one-year deal is now a welcome option for him, though it still will cost the Tigers their first-round draft pick (23rd overall) to sign him anytime before this year’s draft begins June 6.

Tuesday was also a big day on the shortstop market through the waiver wire, where former Yankees shortstop-in-waiting Eduardo Nunez is about to land. The Bronx Bombers designated him for assignment Tuesday to make room for Yangervis Solarte on the roster.

MLB.com’s Yankees reporter, Bryan Hoch, has a good breakdown of Nunez’s situation on his blog, including Yankees GM Brian Cashman using the words “fresh start” in his explanation.

“We’re allotted 10 days to make an assignment of his contract,” Cashman told the Yankees beat writers, “so stay tuned.”

That sounds very much like Nunez is about to be on the move.

There was a time when the 26-year-old Nunez was seen as the logical successor to Derek Jeter. He started 69 games at shortstop last season with Jeter out, though a strained rib cage cost him two months as well. That said, there’s a reason why the Yankees are going with Solarte and parting ways with Nunez. His defense was disappointing when he started, including limited range and an erratic arm, and his OPS dropped to a career-low .679. The fact that the Yankees were supposedly looking for infield help on the trade market early this spring says something about where Nunez had fallen on the depth chart.

The advantage Nunez has over Alex Gonzalez, obviously, is age. For all the questions about his game, whether he can hold up over the course of a season shouldn’t be one of them.

Like Gonzalez, Nunez bats right-handed, so it’s hard to see the Tigers keeping both and platooning them. Thus, if the Tigers were to take a shot on Nunez, they’d have to believe he can step in right away and be a regular shortstop. In addition, Nunez would have to pass through most of the American League on waivers before the Tigers would be able to make a claim. So if Detroit wants him, it might have to work out a trade for him.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Does Eduardo Nunez provide any more certainty at shortstop over the course of a season than Alex Gonzalez? And if it’s close, is it worth swinging a deal for him and giving up parts for the latest fix at short, especially if more errors and wayward throws could lead the Tigers back to Drew?

Speaking of Drew, there’s no sign yet that anything’s moving on that front. While Drew couldn’t sign anywhere before today if he wanted to shed the draft-pick drag next winter, that doesn’t mean teams weren’t able to negotiate with him ahead of today. And if the Tigers had any thought of adding Drew on the second day of the season, I doubt they would have brought in Alex Gonzalez and given up Steve Lombardozzi eight days ago. Thus, the waiting game continues.

Could the Tigers wait until June, see how Gonzalez holds up and then revisit Drew, with no draft pick required at that point? It’s possible, but there’s no guarantee he’ll linger on the market for two more months; the latest injury to Jose Reyes in Toronto shows how unforeseen needs can pop up elsewhere. More importantly, two months encompass a lot of games, and you can’t expect Drew to be ready immediately after signing. Even if he’s in game shape, he’d need his timing at the plate.

In summary: If you thought the Tigers closer watch was a long-running, painful saga last year around this time, this could conceivably go on longer, even if the Tigers made a play for Nunez. Gonzalez, for all his heroics Monday, still needs to play better — mainly in the field — if he’s going to grab the role and slow the speculation.

Game 1: Rookies set up old shortstop for big day

The game-winning RBI on Opening Day at Comerica Park came from a 37-year-old shortstop playing in his 15th Opening Day. The two rookies who set up the walkoff single had played in 11 Major League games combined before Monday.

That’s the kind of mix that got the Tigers through a hairy opener, with Alex Gonzalez responsible for a good chunk of the hairiness.

“I want to do the best,” Gonzalez said after his walkoff single. “I come here to do all my best on defense, offense, show the people I can still play shortstop. Errors are [part of] the game. I made a mistake, but I keep my head.”

So, too, did Nick Castellanos, who ended up with a two-hit game in his first start at third base.

“It’s a kid’s dream come true,” Castellanos said. “Opening Day with all the fans here — great energy in the park from when they announce our names. From start to finish, it was perfect. You can’t really write it any better than that.”

At times, it seemed like Castellanos’ nerves might have the better of him. He singled leading off the fifth inning, but in his aggressiveness to try to take second base on the liner to left, he didn’t account for three-time reigning Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon, who has at least 17 outfield assists in each of the last three seasons. It was the demonstration of the minute difference between the awareness Brad Ausmus is pushing for on the basepaths and the aggressiveness he seems to be getting.

Two innings later, he struck out badly on an 0-2 pitch from Aaron Crow, but the ball skipped away from catcher Salvador Perez, allowing Austin Jackson to dash home from third. It was not a good at-bat for Castellanos, who was out, but it came with a decent ending.

After that, he received some advice.

“Just relax,” Castellanos said. “It’s so easy to think but so hard to do. First big-league Opening Day, at home, in front of all these fans, it’s easy to press. I had a lot of players after my third at-bat, when I swung and missed at a pitch in the dirt, which is not me at all, everybody said, ‘Relax. Don’t try to do too much. Be yourself.’ I felt like I did a really good job of that.”

The ninth-inning single was more in line with Castellanos’ hitting, taking a pitch and lining it into the opposite-field gap. The fact that Ausmus pinch-ran Tyler Collins in place of his starting catcher, Alex Avila, showed some degree of faith that Castellanos could hit a ball that way.

If Castellanos pulls a ball to left field, there’s no way Collins tests Gordon and tries to take third. With a ball to right, by contrast, Collins didn’t hesitate.

“Going first to third on a hard-hit ball like that is always tough,” Castellanos said. “He got a great jump, and fortunately he didn’t even make it a play. That’s because of his effort.”

Collins, by the way, became the fifth Major League player in the last 35 years to make his Major League debut as a pinch-runner and score a game-winning run on a walkoff hit. It happened last September 8, when San Francisco Ehire Adrianza scored in the bottom of the 11th against the Diamondbacks on an Angel Pagan walkoff single. Before that, however, it hadn’t happened since Sept. 2, 1985, when Jose Gonzalez scored a game-winning run for the Dodgers to beat the Expos on a Jay Johnstone walkoff single.

The other two names should be more familiar. Cal Ripken Jr. did it on Aug. 10, 1981, pinch-running for Ken Singleton in the bottom of the 12th and scoring on a John Lowenstein single to help Earl Weaver’s Orioles past the Royals. Two years earlier, Tommy Herr debuted for the Cardinals as a pinch-runner on Aug. 13, 1979 and scored on a Garry Templeton sacrifice fly to beat the Cubs and Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter.

Thanks to baseball-reference.com, as always, for the research tools with their Play Index.

Play of the game: Alex Gonzalez’s game-tying two-out triple was his first three-bagger since April 3, 2011, and was a critical two-out RBI, scoring Alex Avila from second base. Considering the Royals’ success last year protecting leads in the late innings, it changed the course of the game.

It was a continuation of the solid hitting that kept Gonzalez alive in Orioles camp all spring before the trade.

“Just stay relaxed, looking for my pitch,” he said. “I had a great Spring Training, and that helped me a lot. Stay back, think up the middle. I’ve been working out off the tee and in the cage, and it helped me a lot.”

Biggest out: The Royals had Justin Verlander on the verge of another rout in the fourth inning, scoring three times, including a bases-loaded walk of Omar Infante, loading the bases for more when he exercised some damage control against Eric Hosmer. Suddenly, a fastball that was generally 92-94 mph bumped up to 98 to overpower the Royals first baseman into a popout to the left side.

“Obviously I don’t want to walk Omar there,” Verlander said, “but I was able to gather it, get the next guy out and keep us in the ballgame. A big hit there to the next guy, that’s how the wheels fall off. Walk a guy and you get down on yourself, you make a mistake to the next guy and he hits a double, then it’s 6-1, not 3-1.”

Strategy: The decision to pinch-run for Avila in the ninth inning of a tie game — and doing so with a rookie outfielder in his Major League debut — was fairly aggressive on the part of Ausmus. He essentially threw the best hitter on his bench into a situation where the winning run wasn’t yet in scoring position, anticipating a chance to get him from first to third base.

“They had told me the inning before when Victor was hitting to make sure I was loose,” Collins said. “Then it was “Hey Collins, go run.’”

Line of the day: The much-dissected Tigers bullpen delivered three scoreless innings on one-hit between Evan Reed, Al Alburquerque and Joe Nathan.

Stat of the day: 125 — Plate appearances Victor Martinez had last season before hitting his first home run of the year. On Monday, he homered his first time up, then nearly hit another before the ball he launched sailed foul down the right-field line.

“I don’t really worry about hitting home runs, man. That’s not my game,” Martinez said afterwards. “I know my game and I know my strength.”

Print it: “We’ve got some guys that can go out and take that extra 90 feet. And that’s what you have to be, a hyena, to get that extra 90 feet, take advantage of the weak link.” — Torii Hunter

Breaking down the Cabrera extension

The year-by-year breakdown of Miguel Cabrera’s $292 million extension came out today, first reported by Jon Heyman. And the contract is somewhat backloaded, though maybe not as much as expected.

Cabrera’s $22 salary remains intact for this year and next. His salary will jump to $28 million for 2016 and 2017, then $30 million from 2018 through 2021. The last two guaranteed seasons of his deal are the most lucrative at $32 million each. Thus, yes, Cabrera will make $32 million at age 40 in 2023.

Cabrera will get either a $30 million salary in 2024, if his option vests with a top 10 MVP finish or if the club picks it up, or he’ll get an $8 million buyout. The same option is in place for 2025, though not with a buyout.

The deal also includes some good-sized bonuses. Another MVP award will earn him $2 million. Finishing second through fifth in the voting will earn him $200,000. Placing sixth through 2010 will earn him $100,000. Winning the Hank Aaron Award is worth $250,000. He also has a bonus of $100,000 for being voted an All-Star or being named to the Baseball America, AP or Sporting News end-of-season All-Star teams.

Cabrera has $100,000 bonuses for Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, $150,000 for LCS Most Valuable Player, and $200,000 for World Series MVP. If he wins league MVP, the Hank Aaron Award and World Series MVP in the same season, he gets a $1 million bonus.

Bottom line, he has a pretty good chance at earning well beyond the $292 million guaranteed money in his contract.

Opening Day lineups (updated with Royals lineup)

Opening Day 012

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)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-41, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (15-for-46, 4 doubles, 12 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-40, 6 doubles, 2 HR, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-34, 9 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (8-for-25, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  6. Alex Avila, C (6-for-21, HR, walk, 10 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS (0-for-7, K)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-14, triple, 3 K’s)

P: Justin Verlander

ROYALS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Norichika Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-1)
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (9-for-39, HR, 4 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (30-for-68, 2 HR, 8 walks, 9 K’s)
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (14-for-66, 2 HR, 7 walks, 24 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (8-for-21, HR, 4 K’s)
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B (6-for-33, HR, walk, 7 K’s)
  8. Lorenzo Cain, CF (2-for-9, 3 K’s)
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS (8-for-40, walk, 4 K’s)

P: James Shields

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers