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07/27/08 1:36 PM ET

Leyland showing faith in Granderson

Center fielder to bat leadoff against left-handed starters as well

DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland has removed his center fielder's training wheels.

If the Tigers rebound from their slow start and make the postseason, it will materialize with Curtis Granderson leading the charge from the leadoff spot -- regardless of the opposing pitcher.

"I think we can etch that in stone," Leyland said. "I've looked at it [and] I've thought about it. ... He's our catalyst. I'm leading him off. He's one of our premier players. You may suffer once in a great while, but he's our guy, and he has to be our guy. If he's going to be the player we know he is and will be, it's time."

The left-handed-hitting Granderson has primarily batted leadoff against right-handers since becoming a full-time Major Leaguer in 2006, but Leyland has employed different tactics against southpaws.

Last season, Granderson became the third player in Major League history to collect 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season. However, amid all the achievement, Granderson hit just .160 against left-handers.

Leyland has put him near the bottom of the lineup in the eighth or ninth spot when facing a left-handed starting pitcher. In some cases, Leyland would sit Granderson.

No more.

Not after his strong performance this season. And not after the Tigers signed him to five-year, $30.25 million contract during the offseason.

"You try to do things watching real close the first year or two, but this is one of our premier players," Leyland said. "He's signed for a while, and rightfully so. There comes a time when you push the envelope, and that's what I'm going to do with him. I'm not going to sit him against lefties anymore. He may suffer once in a while, but the only way it's going to pay dividends is if he's in."

One reason for Granderson's promotion is his improved efforts against lefties. This season he's actually been hitting better against lefties (.303) than righties (.294) entering Sunday's game against Chicago.

What's more, his 20 hits off southpaws this season top last season's total of 19.

"In the first few years, most people don't understand that you [take players out] to keep them going," Leyland said. "Where his numbers stay good, his confidence stays up. Eventually, you turn the page and move forward with it, and that's what I'm doing."

Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.