One week into the new season, it appears the top of the Tigers lineup will feature some new versatility and some added excitement.  The addition of Torii Hunter gives the Tigers an additional table setter to go with leadoff man Austin Jackson.

The new season has already given us a glimpse of how special this offense can be.  Jackson and Hunter have been exactly what Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland envisioned when Hunter was signed to a two year deal in the off season.

The top of the line up has clicked in large part because of Jackson's fast start, but also because of Hunter's ability to hit to right field.  We have already seen Jackson racing to third base after a Hunter base hit to right on several occasions. It has happened so often that that Hunter has been asked over and over about his ability to hit to right field this season.

"Everyone keeps asking me why I'm hitting to right field so much this year, but the truth is, I've done it all my career," he said.

Hunter's first manager in the big leagues was Tom Kelly in Minnesota, and when Hunter got to the big leagues, it became clear that he would have to hit to all fields if he wanted to remain a major leaguer.

"Early in my career I had a three hit game, all to left field, and the next day I didn't play," Hunter said.  TK made it clear that if I didn't hit the ball up the middle or the other way, I wouldn't get off the bench."

So, Hunter has kept that approach at the plate and the results have been impressive.  On Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park, Hunter singled to center field in the 6th inning for his 2,000th major league hit.  An impressive milestone to be sure, but the ultimate goal this year is to facilitate the offense.

"In Minnesota, it was my job to drive in runs," Hunter said  Here, my job is to make sure the guys in the middle of the lineup eat."  So far, Hunter has done a marvelous job of putting food on the table.

As good as Hunter has been, Jackson's fast start has been equally important.  Leyland has given Jackson the green light to steal bases this season, and the skipper gets the feeling that Jackson's stolen base numbers may enjoy a jump this season.  Still, it is a risky proposition to have Jackson run.

"I've been in baseball a long time, but I do't know how to handle this," Leyland said.  Sometimes you set yourself up to have Cabrera walked."

While the risk of opening up first base to give the opposing manager an opportunity to walk Cabrera exists, Leyland does feel that a running Jackson adds a new dimension to the offense.  

It's a dimension that could kick the Tigers offense up a notch.  The Tigers have scored first in six of their first seven games.  That is a trend Leyland hopes will continue.


12/18/2014 07:52

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