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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ausmus commits to lineup — for Opening Day, at least

DETROIT — He finally committed.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus joked early in spring camp that he might be a commitophobic, and as such he’d barely given out any hints on what his batting order might look like, outside of the obvious ones.

And, even then, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were only tabbed “95 percent.”

Now, it’s 100 percent what the lineup will look like, at least for Monday’s Opening Day contest against the Royals.

Ian Kinsler will lead off, followed by Torii Hunter, in his old spot in the No. 2 hole.

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez will bat third and cleanup, respectively.

That part, really, was the easy (or easier) part.

“Portions of it. There are portions of this lineup that I think are relatively easy. There’s other parts where you probably have a little more wiggle room. Ultimately, after talking with the coaches, and mulling it over, this is what I came up with,” Ausmus said at Sunday’s optional workout at Comerica Park.

“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.”

Austin Jackson will be in the fifth spot in the lineup, at least to start. His .429 spring average — best on the team of anyone with more than seven at-bats — surely helped.

“He’s hit there, really, for the majority of spring training, and he’s looked exceptional. Does that mean it’s going to carry over? No. But right now, I feel like he’s the best option at that spot,” Ausmus said of Jackson, who was moved out of the leadoff spot in last year’s playoffs, and has not hit there since. “He wasn’t jumpy. He had a very strong base. He just looked like a hitter. Even his outs were hard-struck.”

After Alex Avila in the No. 6 spot, it goes right-right-right in the bottom three spots with Nick Castellanos, Alex Gonzalez and Rajai Davis. Part of that is facing Kansas City ace James Shields, who’s been tougher on lefties (.233 last year) than righties (.272 last year) in his career.

Ausmus still wouldn’t commit to the division of at-bats between left-handed Tyler Collins and right-handed Rajai Davis in left field, but he’s in the No. 9 spot in the lineup Monday, as a second leadoff hitter of sorts.

“You hope, in theory, it puts him on base in front of guys like Kinsler, Hunter and then Miggy. Doesn’t always work out that way. But that’s kind of the theory going in,” Ausmus said. “He certainly has the ability to score on just about any double, from first base. He puts a little fear in the pitcher and catcher, in terms of his base-stealing capability. And maybe, as a result, the hitters coming after him, get a few more pitches to hit.”

Tigers batting order
(for Opening Day vs. KC)
Ian Kinsler, 2B

Torii Hunter, RF

Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Victor Martinez, DH

Austin Jackson, CF

Alex Avila, C

Nick Castellanos, 3B

Alex Gonzalez, SS

Rajai Davis, LF

P: Justin Verlander


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