Anderson gets opening assignment
Speedster to start in left, allowing Guillen to DH in Toronto
TORONTO -- The Tigers have had less than a week to try to define Josh Anderson's role on the club. For Opening Day, at least, his role will be in the starting lineup.
Manager Jim Leyland's order for Opening Night against the Blue Jays will feature Anderson as the starting left fielder, batting ninth. The move allows Leyland to use Carlos Guillen as the designated hitter on the artificial surface of Rogers Centre, and injects speed at the bottom of the order on a night when runs could be tough to come by against former American League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
"This stuff is really tough on Guillen's hamstring," Leyland said referring to the turf. "He's our left fielder, but this was a no-brainer. We start on this stuff, and we'll get it out of the way early, and we won't have to worry about it anymore. I'm not going to take any chances."
Guillen will be the DH in one more game this series, Leyland said. Right fielder Magglio Ordonez will also DH for a game.
"We're going to have probably two or three different DH's, two more for sure in this series," Leyland said. "That's good. That's that flexibility we're talking about."
The move means Marcus Thames won't be in the Opening Day lineup, but he won't have to wait long to get in there. He'll play at least twice in this four-game series, Leyland said. So will utility infielder Ramon Santiago, who will give starting shortstop Adam Everett and second baseman Placido Polanco a game off apiece. Matt Treanor will catch one game.
By the time the Tigers leave this city and head home, Leyland hopes to have played every player on his positional roster. The one player left for Leyland to find a start is Jeff Larish, who may or may not hit Wednesday against Jesse Litsch, the one other right-handed starter the Tigers will face in this series.
Had Leyland decided to play Guillen in left field in the opener, he said, Larish might've been the DH. Instead, as Leyland put it, "I went with the speed and defense."
Those are the two facets that make Anderson such an intriguing option for Detroit. He abruptly went from the center-field competition in Atlanta to an extra outfield spot with the Tigers. Unless something goes wrong that leaves Detroit needing to fill a spot, Anderson isn't likely to have an everyday role with the club. But the more Leyland rotates players at DH, the more Anderson seems likely to play.
"I don't know how this is going to play out," Leyland said, "but he's a good defender. He can fly. You're playing on turf. He might jump one. He might score a run. ...
"I just figured this game might be that type of game, for beating out a force play at second or going first to third [on a single]. Of all those guys sitting over there, he gives us the best chance for that. Marcus and Larish might hit a home run off Halladay, but that's kind of unlikely, too. That's pretty tough. So I went a little bit for the defense and speed."
At this point, Anderson is trying to keep himself ready for anything. He's getting adjusted, too, obviously, but he said having at least a few days with the Tigers in Spring Training proved a big benefit for him.
"The biggest thing is to be ready for anything they throw at me," Anderson said. "I'm willing to do whatever. The Tigers have been nice enough to give me this opportunity."
In this case, the opportunity involves him batting against a Cy Young winner whom he has never faced in his career, much like Thames in that regard.
"You just kind of go with it," said a smiling Anderson, his voice hinting of a challenge he's eager to take. "The good thing about it is you have teammates who have faced him."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.