Scherzer struggles, Tigers curbed by Nationals
LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Brennan Boesch is not your typical No. 2 hitter.
He's not fast, he hits for power and is prone to striking out. But the Detroit Tigers outfielder is quick to suggest that he doesn't mind being in that spot, especially if it means he'll be getting better pitches as sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder follow him in the order.
Boesch often batted second last season and hit .283 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs. His three-run homer in Thursday's 5-3 loss to a split-squad of Washington Nationals was his sixth this spring, and he's tired of answering questions about his position in the lineup.
"It's a little disrespectful," Boesch said. "It doesn't matter where they bat me. I still have to have the same approach to hitting. People always think I should be trying to get a walk, but I want to be aggressive. I batted in front of Cabrera before and I won't take a different approach to just try to get on base."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't care if Boesch is a typical No. 2 hitter, in place to move the leadoff man over. He wants all the hitting he can get from Boesch.
"I want just what you saw tonight," Leyland said of Boesch's 1-for-3 night to move his spring batting average to .271. "At No. 2 in this lineup, he is in the perfect spot. I've hit power guys in that spot before. We'll do whatever it takes to score runs and Brennan Boesch is in the right spot."
Before the game, Leyland announced that Andy Oliver, one of the final candidates for the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Oliver was considered a favorite for the spot heading into spring training, but he has struggled and Leyland said it was time to make a move, leaving Drew Smyly and Duane Below, both left-handers as the finalists for the spot. Smyly has never pitched in the majors and Below pitched in 14 games, starting two, in his first season in the majors last year. Leyland said the Tigers aren't ruling out a trade.
"We felt like he wasn't the guy," Leland said of Oliver. "He really didn't have a very good year last year. I think there was a lot of factors that went into it. I explained to him that I felt there were a few things he needed to do. I like him very much and he's got to work on a few of the things that I explained to him today. That's a big key for him. Nobody's down on Oliver. We just didn't feel like at this time, he was the guy. So we made the move. He can get over there (Toledo) and get going."
Xavier Paul hit a two-run single in the top of the eighth, and former All-Star Tyler Clippard pitched two scoreless innings to get the win for the Nationals.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead on Boesch's homer, but Washington tied it in the sixth. Max Scherzer started for the Tigers and went 5 1-3 innings, allowing 10 hits and three earned runs. Andy Dirks lifted his spring average to .422 with two hits for the Tigers.
Steve Lombardozzi and Tim Pahuta had three hits each for the Nationals.
NOTES: Leyland said 3B Miguel Cabrera, who was cleared to play after suffering a small fracture beneath his right eye after taking a bad-hop grounder last week, needed an extra day off. Cabrera was expected to play Thursday. "He's going to play (Friday). We held him out one more day. We went over a lot of fundamentals today so he did a lot today and then hit. And if he's OK, I'll play him the rest of the way." ... Below, in his last chance to audition for the final spot in the Tigers rotation, will start Friday against Baltimore. He'll be followed by RHP Octavio Dotel and RHP Luis Marte. LHP Brian Matusz will start for Baltimore. ... OF Delmon Young played after missing two games with a sore left knee. He went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. ... Nationals RHP Mitch Atkins was brought over from minor league camp to make the start against Detroit. He went five innings, allowing three runs, all on Boesch's homer. ... RHP Ryan Perry was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite posting a 2.25 ERA in six relief appearances for the Nationals this spring.