Andy Dirks in center, Don Kelly at third … just another day in the lineup life of Jim Leyland.
The Tigers had a makeup game on the schedule Monday, and Leyland decided to take the opportunity to rest two of his regulars, Austin Jackson and Brandon Inge.
Actually, in Inge’s case, the manager said it was more of him wanting to keep Kelly sharp after he’d performed well while the regular third baseman was recuperating from mononucleosis.
Dirks walked and contributed a sacrifice bunt as the leadoff man in a hitless game. He started his first game in center, a position he’s played in the minors, and hit in Jackson’s leadoff spot.
“These are special nights,” Leyland said after Detroit rallied for two runs in the eighth inning to grab a 4-2 win from Toronto in the makeup of the rained-out May 17 game. “We started Dirks, we started Kelly, we got Ingie out (on the field as a reserve) after a blow, we got Austin out after a little bit of a blow.”
Jackson pinch-ran for Magglio Ordonez after the veteran singled with one out in the eighth. Inge entered in the top of the ninth with Kelly going to right, Dirks shifting to left and Jackson taking over in center.
Leyland is a little bit like Sparky Anderson, who was honored Sunday by having his No. 11 jersey retired from use by the Tigers, in that he believes that “if they aren’t good enough to play, why did we keep them on the team?”
So Leyland plays his reserves both to keep them sharp and to keep the regulars from wearing out.
“And everybody feels like they’re part of the team,” said Leyland, who tries to pick his spots so the reserves aren’t overmatched when they start. “I’m a big believer in that.
“I think you have to use all 25 guys, and that’s what I intend to do. That’s good for the team.”
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