04/12/2013 9:18 PM ET
Leyland lauds Tigers' fortitude
By Willie Bans / Special to MLB.com
OAKLAND -- A day after a 35-degree first-pitch temperature, Tigers manager Jim Leyland's body and perspective had warmed up in sunny Oakland on Friday when he reflected on Thursday's 11-1, series-clinching win against Toronto in Detroit.
"I think that's as proud as I've been of a team on any particular day that I've ever managed," he said. "I mean that. Those conditions were absolutely miserable."
The misery had historical measure: It was the coldest temperature for a Tigers home game since 1996, according to STATS, with steady rain and strong wind.
Still, the Tigers used aggressive baserunning and offensive power to help erase Wednesday's tough defeat to the Blue Jays.
"I couldn't get over how our guys came out running the bases, ready to go," Leyland said. "Could have been a delay, tough loss the day before. The weather conditions were as bad as I've ever played in or managed in, or right up there. That spoke volumes about our guys yesterday. I was really impressed with that. Not just because we won. Obviously, that helped, but just the way they went about it. I thought that was pretty impressive."
Red-hot Torii takes first breather
OAKLAND -- Jim Leyland said he and Torii Hunter have an agreement. Hunter getting a day off in Friday's series opener against the A's is part of that agreement.
For the first time this season, Hunter's hot bat wasn't in the starting lineup. He usually starts in right field and hits in the No. 2 hole. On Friday, Don Kelly got the nod at right, and Andy Dirks, usually the No. 6 hitter, batted second, carrying a .136 batting average. Hunter owns a career .241 average in 58 at-bats against Oakland's Friday starter, Bartolo Colon.
Hunter, 37, has been on fire. Thursday's two-hit game against Toronto marked his seventh multihit game this season. Hunter, batting .405, is the third Tigers player since 1916 to tally multiple hits in seven of the club's first nine games of the season.
"I gave him off tonight because I want him to play tomorrow for sure," Leyland said of the right-handed-hitting Hunter. "I thought this was a good time. I want to be careful with him. I want to watch him, obviously. I didn't want him off tomorrow because we have a lefty [Brett Anderson] tomorrow, a tough lefty."
Hunter gave his input but was OK with the decision.
"I understand," he said. "I get it. It's early, but I got a day game after a night."
Smiling, Hunter added, "I kind of argued with him. Hey, I want to be in there, but I understand what he's doing. I'm all for it. He's the skip. I'm going with his decision. He knows what he wants to do. He's looking down the road, not just now."
Just the type of reaction Leyland has quickly grown to admire and expect out of a guy like Hunter in his first year with Detroit since signing as a free agent on Nov. 19.
"He plays the game right," Leyland said. "He handles himself right. He's one of those guys who just has a presence about him, on and off the field. Dignified, well-spoken -- he's got a lot going for him."
• Jose Valverde's scoreless inning in extended spring training on Friday against the Braves was met by a shrug by Leyland.
"He pitched an inning," Leyland said of the former closer, who struck out one and walked one.
The Tigers signed Valverde to a Minor League contract during the season's first week.
• How good does Leyland think West Coast burger joint In-N-Out is?
"They're the best," he said.
Willie Bans is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.