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Pujols planning changes to lineup
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04/09/2002 11:51 pm ET 
Pujols planning changes to lineup
"We're going to have to shake it up a little bit."
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Detroit manager Luis Pujols (left) talks with one of his new coaches, Steve McCatty (right), during the Tigers' 8-2 loss to the White Sox Tuesday. (Duane Burleson/AP)
DETROIT -- Luis Pujols will keep the lineup card from his managerial debut. He just might not use that batting order again.

Pujols' first game leading the Tigers ended in the same fashion as the six losses that Phil Garner managed. It also featured an eerily similar offensive attack to Garner's final loss Sunday, as Detroit seemed destined to be shut out before pounding out a couple of runs in the late innings.

Chicago's 8-2 win Tuesday night featured seven shutout innings from White Sox starter Dan Wright, before the Tigers broke through for two in the eighth. A leadoff single from Jacob Cruz, a Jose Macias double on a full count, Andres Torres' sacrifice fly and Bobby Higginson's single to right accounted for Detroit's two runs and three of their six hits for the night.

This time, it's Pujols in charge of finding solutions to an offensive attack that has tallied 15 runs through seven games and just seven in four home affairs. His postgame comments seemed to hint that more changes were coming for Detroit's lineup.

"Well, I can say welcome to the big leagues," Pujols said. "It was pretty tough. I like what I saw in the eighth. We're going to have to keep pushing.

"We're going to have to shake it up a little bit."

He wouldn't elaborate on what that might involve, but he had a brainstorming session with hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, the only member of the Tigers field staff aside from strength and conditioning coach Dennis Taft whose role went unchanged this week.

Any change won't likely involve Bobby Higginson, who appears set at the leadoff spot. Nor should Jacob Cruz be affected. His eighth-inning single gave him a hit in all six games he's played this season, subbing for the injured Robert Fick.

One Pujols' trait already evident is his immediate response to correct mistakes. He made an adjustment during the game with center fielder Andres Torres, who has struggled to grow comfortable in center field, and talked with new coach Rafael Landestoy about something he noticed with shortstop Shane Halter in the field.

"We're going to have to work hard and develop players at the big league level," Pujols said. "I'm willing and the coaching staff is willing to work extra to make it better. That's not meant as any criticism for what Phil [Garner] did.

"Sometimes I like to take care of that stuff on the field to make sure it doesn't happen again."

That isn't to say that Pujols is installing a drill sergeant's mentality in the dugout. One of the qualities players loved from him at Double-A Erie, in fact, was that he didn't place undue pressure on them.

"He's short and sweet and to the point," reliever Terry Pearson said. "We're grown men. Be on time and play hard."

Detroit's hitters are also reaching the point where they're tired of talking about what's happening and hoping to do something about it. Their six hits Tuesday dropped the team's batting average to .213 and the slugging percentage to .323.

Halter, however, is no longer the most glaring example of the club's hitting struggles. He broke out of an 0-for-22 slump with fourth-inning double off the wall in center field.

"You can throw any possible clichi out there," said a frustrated Mitch Meluskey, whose 0-for-4 evening extended his hitless streak to 11 at-bats at Comerica Park. "We just have to get it done. Me personally, I'm very disappointed in my performance. I just don't feel comfortable at the plate. I haven't felt like this since wiffle ball."

While Pujols credited White Sox starter Dan Wright with making the pitches he needed, he also noted how often the Tigers jumped ahead in the count only to make an out. They made at least three groundouts with three-ball counts.

Other times, the Tigers suffered bouts of free swinging. They had runners at the corners with one out in the fourth only to go away scoreless. Wright struck out Dean Palmer swinging on an outside slider. Craig Paquette struck out on a 1-2 pitch as well to end the inning.

"I can't believe that average guys are carving this club up," Meluskey said. "And any player here would say that. But we're just a little tweak away, and it's going to be all right for me and a lot of these guys."

They'll be pleased when they're no longer flirting with history, though they still have a week to go before threatening the club record of 13 straight losses to open the 1920 season. This year's 0-7 start is the Tigers' worst since 1952, when Detroit lost its first eight games. Four of those came against Cleveland and one against Chicago.

That team ended its skid with a win against the White Sox. This club will have to do the same in Wednesday afternoon's series finale to avoid matching that eight-game slide.

Jason Beck covers the Tigers for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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