8/2/2014 8:36 P.M. ET
Davis could be the answer for Tigers in center
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Before Rajai Davis got the first center-field start for the Tigers in the post-Austin Jackson era, he suggested center was easier for him than the corner outfield because he had more room to run.
"Less chance to run into the wall," he argued.
It figured, then, that three of the first six hitters Justin Verlander faced Friday night ended up driving the ball to center, sending Davis on the run. The third, Drew Stubbs, powered a ball that sent Davis scrambling to the warning track, more than 400 feet away from home plate, before corralling the ball.
"That was a close one," Davis said. "That was close, but not close enough."
He handled them all, and more after that. He then scored or drove in all four of Detroit's runs for the game, including a go-ahead two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the fifth inning.
All in all, it was a pretty good start to a new role for Davis, who has had a season of them. He began the season as Detroit's regular left fielder with Andy Dirks out, then essentially became a fourth outfielder when J.D. Martinez's hitting tear forced him into the starting lineup. With Jackson gone, Davis is now part of the answer in center field along with Ezequiel Carrera.
If he performs, Davis could be the answer. With three left-handed starters pitching for the Rockies this weekend, he has plenty of opportunity to make an impression.
"I think he does see it, not as a challenge, but as taking a lot of pride in being a center fielder," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's going to play a lot in center field."
The advantage Davis' speed gives him in center is obvious. For a spot that has some of the widest territory to cover in baseball thanks to the spacious dimensions of Comerica Park, Davis is the one of the few with enough speed to cover most of it. As long as he gets a good read, it'll be tough to get a hit over his head.
It's the read that will be key. As Detroit's two previous center fielders -- Austin Jackson and Curtis Granderson -- said at different times, it's not always easy to read the ball in Comerica Park.
"Certainly, his speed can make up for some misjudgments and some bad jumps occasionally," Ausmus said. "We'll see how it works."
Pudge talks Price deal after being honored by Tigers
DETROIT -- Ivan Rodriguez spent this weekend's ¡Fiesta Tigres! celebration at Comerica Park getting a lot of thanks for the role he played in the franchise's turnaround from an American League-record 119 losses in 2003 to the World Series in 2006, then perennial contenders since.
In the wake of the David Price trade, however, Rodriguez has been congratulating Tigers officials.
"Everybody wants Price on their team," Rodriguez said. "You're talking about now, you have [Max] Scherzer, you have [Justin] Verlander, you have [Anibal] Sanchez, you have [Rick] Porcello. And then you have Price? Come on, man, that's like not fair.
"I can tell you this right now: Those five guys are going to average six, seven innings per start from now until the season's over. And when you have five guys like that, you're going to have a high percentage that you're going to win the division."
They obviously expect much more than that. Part of those expectations, an expectation that came in part from Rodriguez and the change in mindset he brought to Detroit when he signed as a free agent in 2004.
One of those starting pitchers, Verlander, played a big part in the Tigers' pregame ceremony honoring Rodriguez. Verlander presented Rodriguez with a framed Tigers jersey bearing his name and old No. 7, while Miguel Cabrera unveiled a portrait of him as a Tiger, bat in hands.
Rodriguez hugged Verlander and lifted him off his feet on his way off his field. He, too, had his opinions on Verlander's season.
"I love Justin a lot," Rodriguez said, "and to be honest with you, I'm probably going to sit down for five minutes with him. The one thing I don't like from him right now is he's keeping the ball way too much up in the strike zone. I want to talk him about why he's doing that.
"He's a fighter. He's a guy that loves to pitch. He didn't like any manager to take him out of the game he started. [Friday] night he did a great job. It's good to see what he did. … But I want to just make a little adjustment, keep the ball down. He's a strikeout pitcher and the only way he can strike out people is to keep the ball down."