Jim Leyland is a guy who likes challenges.
And he certainly has one now with two of his key outfielders missing.
The news that Magglio Ordonez’s season is over, and maybe his career as well, because of a re-fracture of the right ankle he originally broke in July 2010 rocked a Detroit team already shaken after left fielder Delmon Young was lost to an injury before the American League Championship Series and ace Justin Verlander was defeated in the opener against Texas.
Leyland, though, is nothing if not resilient and creative, so it would not be out of character for the veteran manager to come up with a surprising attempt to minimize the twin losses of Ordonez and Young.
“We’re a real resilient team,” he said Sunday, when Game 2 was rained out and rescheduled for Monday. “Do I like this? Obviously, no. Do I like losing Delmon Young? No.
“But we’re a tough team. We’ll figure something out. And we’ll get through this. We’re like every other team in baseball that has these type of situations pop up. You get through it. We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, I can guarantee you that. We’ll make do somehow.”
Leyland’s first order of business was to confer with GM Dave Dombrowski to determine the best way to fill the roster spot. “I don’t have any information right now as to what we’re going to do because we don’t know,” Leyland said.
Ryan Raburn, who took over for Young in left field, will almost certainly play every game in left or right from here on out.
Leyland’s problem is a plethora of left-handed hitting outfielders. That would be fine for most opponents, but Texas is using three lefty starters against Detroit.
The Tigers can expect zero help from the minors. They have no outfield prospects they could gamble on, let alone right-handed hitters.
They might decide that their best bet is to bring back Carlos Guillen, whose calf is still limiting him and who was scheduled to begin playing games in the instructional league in hopes of making himself useful by the World Series. Guillen would only be able to pinch-hit and would need a pinch-runner if he got on base.
They also could activate Young, whose left oblique injury in the final game of the divisional round is what kept him off the roster in the first place. There’s a slim hope he could at least hit by midweek.
Leyland would then have the out-of-left-field option of making Young his DH, putting Victor Martinez at first and gambling that Miguel Cabrera can remember how to play third base or left field.
Cabrera has been taking groundballs at third since late September just to be ready to play his old position in the event Detroit made the World Series. He would then switch positions for games in the NL cities.
It would be a stretch, but Cabrera played left field for Florida in the World Series as a rookie. That was several years and a lot of pounds ago, however.
Leyland does not want his team getting down on itself and thus is presenting an upbeat persona to them and the media.
“I feel great,” he said. “We’re in the playoffs. We’re playing the Texas Rangers for the championship. I love it.
“We had to beat the New York Yankees just for the right to play the defending champions. We had a great game (Saturday night). We missed a couple of opportunities. That’s baseball.
“This is a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity to show how tough we are. I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us.”
They don’t. Not in Texas anyway.
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