10/16/2013 5:10 P.M. ET
Leyland's Game 4 lineup shuffle the right move
Tigers' skipper shakes up batting order in effort to find some offense
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
DETROIT -- What was Tigers manager Jim Leyland supposed to do? Pretend everything is all right?
Of course not. How silly.
If this was the middle of June, he might not have rearranged his batting order so dramatically.
But it's not the middle of June. The Tigers are being pushed toward the brink of elimination because their bats have gone silent.
Leyland's choices were to say he was going to dance with the guys who'd brought the Tigers this far.
Or he could do something. So, he applied a jolt -- a big one.
Good for him. What did he have to lose?
His changes involved his two best offensive players, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
For just the third time in his career -- and for the first time since his second season in the Major Leagues -- Cabrera will be hitting second in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night.
And Fielder, the cleanup hitter for 320 of his 324 regular-season games with the Tigers, will hit third. Victor Martinez, batting .364 in three ALCS games, is the new cleanup hitter.
Leyland wrestled with what to do with a lineup producing 2.9 runs per game in eight postseason contests.
The Tigers have scored six runs in three ALCS games against the Red Sox.
Those have been broken down this way: one run in Game 1, five runs in Game 2, zero runs in Game 3.
"It certainly can't hurt," Leyland said. "We're going to take a shot. If nothing else, when guys look at the lineup card they kind of look at it a little bit. And maybe it wakes you up a little bit. Not that they've been sleeping, they've been great games. Just a little something to, you know, churn up the butter a little bit."
Leyland considered two choices. One was to replace his leadoff man, Austin Jackson, who is hitting .091 with 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats, with another.
He didn't like any of his options for that, so he simply dropped Jackson to the eighth spot in the order and moved everyone else up a spot.
Torii Hunter will be hitting leadoff for just the 16th time in his 17-year career. And Cabrera will move from third to second, Fielder from fourth to third, etc.
"You've got Torii Hunter and Cabrera and Fielder hitting right in the first inning," he said. "That's pretty good power and we've got to try to get on the board somehow. And we know we live with extra-base hits and home runs, because there's not much speed up there. But the speed [Jackson] that was up there was not getting on base."
Leyland sketched out the lineup card in his office Tuesday night after a 1-0 loss in Game 3 of the ALCS. He showed it to a few people, and when he'd gotten comfortable, he asked Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon to text the players.
If nothing else, the new lineup will get the attention of Leyland's players. And he seemed to like that.
"We had to do something," Leyland said. "I thought we had to shake it up a little bit. I think most of the writers and the broadcasters and the media people agree that we had to do something. It's a little bit of a shocker, but, hey, you know, postseason, let's try something. I'm not afraid to try something."
When someone asked about the wisdom of making such a dramatic change at this point, Leyland smiled.
"I really wanted to give you guys something to write about and talk about," Leyland said. "This should be a good time for you. You can say I'm nuts, you can say I'm dumb, you can say whatever you want. It does give you something to write about. So here it is, have a good time with it."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.