By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Less than a week earlier, Jim Leyland had explained his rationale for not pinch-running for Prince Fielder in the ninth inning after Fielder got tagged out at home plate while trying to score from first base on a double.
Many questioned the Detroit Tigers skipper that Saturday. If the question of the big first baseman’s running ability comes up again, however, Thursday’s game may well crop up as evidence to back up Leyland’s choice.
In the series finale against Seattle, the big first baseman scored from first on a double not just once, but twice.
Besides scoring the go-ahead run, giving the Tigers a 5-4 lead, Fielder’s slide provided a great moment for his teammates. Right fielder Torii Hunter sounded particularly excited about it as he described watching Fielder round the bases.
“I’m jumping up and down,” Hunter said with a big grin. “It’s like I’m running with him. You know how you see your kid, he’s running [for] the touchdown in Little League and you start running down the line with him? That’s what I do with Prince, so every time he runs to score from first to home, it’s exciting. That big boy can move!”
It ended up being a close play at the plate, but Fielder said it was the right call from third base coach Tom Brookens. Leyland also liked the boldness of sending Fielder.
“He’s aggressive,” Leyland said. “That’s what you’ve got to be. When I coached for the White Sox, I coached third base, I had a sign on my desk – in my locker, I didn’t have a desk in those days – but it said, ‘Stopping at third adds nothing to the score,’ so if you get a chance, you think you’ve got a chance to score him, you send him. I don’t have any problem with an aggressive third base coach within common sense. He’s done a good job.”
As for those who doubted Leyland for leaving him in Saturday’s game, Fielder had a calm but dismissive response.
“Those people don’t play baseball,” Fielder said with a shrug, “so it doesn’t really matter.”