LAKELAND, Fla. — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has made base running a major point of emphasis this spring.
To that end, he divided the team into three groups, each of which Ausmus personally coaches before the morning meeting.
Ausmus and the coaches worked with the first group Saturday, the second group Monday and the third group Tuesday before the Florida Southern game.
"I don’t want guys just running wild," Ausmus said. "We’re trying to instill some ideas that make the risk of base stealing diminish. We’re not just running to steal bases. What we’re trying to do is find spots where we can steal bases successfully. We don’t want to eliminate base runners, so we’re not just running and hoping the numbers fall into our favor."
Ausmus said all the position players have the green light right now.
"I want to make clear that doesn’t mean there’s a carousel out there," Ausmus said. "I know this from experience — if you have the green light and you’re on first base, from pitch one, you’re much more in tune with what’s going on. You’re trying to time the pitcher, you’re watching the catcher. As opposed to just standing there without the green light, and now all of a sudden you get the steal, now you haven’t been timing the pitcher. You’re much more in tune, much more in rhythm of the game if you have the green light because you’re looking for opportunities."
Although the Tigers didn’t steal any bases during the Florida Southern game, Ausmus saw the attitude he was hoping to see.
"The thing that stands out by far is the base running was outstanding today," Ausmus said. "Guys were aggressive. Devon Travis was really aggressive on a ball in the dirt, got to second. We had guys busting hard — (Andy) Dirks, (Steve) Lombardozzi, Rajai Davis, Donnie Kelly. They were coming out of the box hard, even on non-hits, which was one of the things we’ve been preaching so that was good to see. There were other guys who were as well."
Here is the starting lineup:
1) Ian Kinsler, 2B
2) Rajai Davis, LF
3) Victor Martinez, DH
4) Jordan Lennerton, 1B
5) Don Kelly, RF
6) Nick Castellanos, 3B
7) Daniel Fields, CF
8) Bryan Holaday, C
9) Steve Lombardozzi, SS
SP: Drew Smyly
Also scheduled to pitch are: Al Alburquerque, Luis Marte, Justin Miller, Luke Putkonen, Evan Reed, Eduardo Sanchez, Phil Coke and Blaine Hardy.
Other position players making the trip are: Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez, Devon Travis, Danny Worth, Ezequiel Carrera, Tyler Collins, Steven Moya, Craig Albernaz, Ramon Cabrera, Francisco Martinez and John Murrian.
"We lost to Alburquerque’s Latin connection," Ausmus said. "Today we have the clubhouse staff versus Torii Hunter’s scrap heap. I’m going with Torii."
Good choice by Ausmus as Hunter’s team, which he has called "Torii’s Leftovers," won by one point.
Duane Below, a member of Torii’s leftovers, said they owed their victory to defensive coordinator Matt Martin, who has a broken toe.