4/12/2014 10:37 P.M. ET
When hits dry up, Tigers turn to baserunning
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- The Tigers hadn't made solid contact on an Andrew Cashner pitch Friday night until Rajai Davis sent a line drive through the middle with one out in the sixth inning. They didn't need to make solid contact, or any contact, to get him to third.
Within five pitches, Davis had stolen two bases, and the previously focused Cashner had walked Ian Kinsler. Though Cashner regrouped to get an inning-ending double play from Miguel Cabrera, the rally became Exhibit A of what aggressive baserunning can mean to a team struggling to produce offense.
It was the third time in two games that a Tigers hitter went from first to third with less than two outs without a ball put in play. Ian Kinsler did it twice Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, swiping second and third on Josh Beckett before a wild pitch and a throwing error advanced him in the seventh inning. Both times, Kinsler scored on sacrifice flies.
"I've seen a lot of good things on the bases in the first eight games," manager Brad Ausmus said Saturday. "We put an emphasis on it in Spring Training. The key is to re-emphasize, remind and make sure that we continue to have this frame of mind once we've left home plate. Force the defense to make the play; try to go the extra 90 feet on a pitch or the extra 180 feet on a batted ball."
Kinsler's steals came early in a scoreless game against a slow pitcher to home. Davis' steals came at a time when everyone expected the Tigers to try to manufacture some offense, having failed to do so for the first five innings.
"I think Jim Leyland said it to me: You know a guy's a basestealer when everyone in the stadium knows he's trying to steal a base and he still does," Ausmus said. "When he gets on base, he can change not only the way the game goes, but the pitcher's frame of mind. The pitcher's now concentrating on two things as opposed to one. When he's on base, he can be an issue for an opposing team."
That said, don't expect Davis to do so from the leadoff spot for much longer. Ausmus reiterated his plans to move Davis back toward the bottom of the order once the team returns home for American League play and the designated hitter rules next week.
"More than likely, when we get back to the American League format, he'll go back to the nine hole," Ausmus said, "because I really do prefer Miggy hitting third on a regular basis."
Tigers' Kelly OK after crash into outfield wall
SAN DIEGO -- Don Kelly woke up Saturday morning no longer experiencing a headache from his Friday night crash into the right-field fence at Petco Park. The rest of his body didn't fare so well.
"All over sore," he said. "Shoulder, knee, the whole right side."
Kelly was still available off the bench for Saturday night's game against the Padres, but Torii Hunter's return to right field rendered moot any question of his being able to start.
"He's a tough nut," manager Brad Ausmus said.
It was Kelly's second crash into a right-field fence in four days, and the third by a Tigers right fielder. The previous two had come at Dodger Stadium, where the barriers are shorter but the outfield territory is a little cozier.
At Petco Park, the right-field fence is larger and includes a video board. Kelly ran into a wire mesh screen in front of the board that some compared to a chain-link fence. He crashed into it first with his head, then with his right side, as he ran after Jedd Gyorko's first-inning drive to the warning track.
Kelly stayed in the game and passed an early concussion test, though he acknowledged he had a headache.
"That was the thing that hurt the most at the beginning," Kelly said. "But as the game went on, it started getting a little tighter."
Castellanos back as Tigers rest Martinez
SAN DIEGO -- No, Brad Ausmus hadn't forgotten about Nick Castellanos. But he wasn't going to sit Victor Martinez to play him on most Interleague nights. Saturday was the night.
While Martinez got a night off, Castellanos, rated Detroit's No. 1 prospect this year by MLB.com, returned to his normal post at third base, with Miguel Cabrera back at first. It was his second start in four games on this trip and the latest in the juggling act Ausmus has tried to play to keep hitters from gathering rust without the DH.
"The juggling here is not having guys sit too long," Ausmus said. "I mean, Nick hasn't done anything to deserve not to play. It's just the National League format and the way our roster is set up for an American League format."
Martinez will return to the lineup for Sunday's series finale, Ausmus said, though before Saturday's game it was unclear at which position. It would not be a surprise if he got back behind the plate to catch Max Scherzer, one of the pitchers he caught in Spring Training.
Hunter returns to Tigers' lineup vs. Padres
SAN DIEGO -- Torii Hunter returned to the Tigers' lineup Saturday after missing the previous two games with a bruised left knee.
"We were hoping he would play yesterday, but it was just a case where his knee wouldn't allow him to play right field," manager Brad Ausmus said. "As the old saying goes, [he was] day to day, and today's the day that he can play. Like Dr. Seuss."
Hunter's return brought a cascade effect down the rest of the lineup. With Hunter batting third after Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera moved back to cleanup. It also gave the Tigers a little flexibility to sit Victor Martinez, who had been shuffling between catcher and first base with no DH slot in National League parks.