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Cespedes, Gose make difference in Tigers outfield

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — There are the obvious plays, like when Yoenis Cespedes threw out Jhonny Peralta at home plate in St. Louis, or when Anthony Gose gunned down Adam Lind on Tuesday night, or when Gose made a phenomenal diving catch to rob Khris Davis on Monday.

The subtle ones, though, are just as important. Like when a ball hit down the left-field line has bloop double written all over it, except, there's Cespedes, positioned perfectly, loping in to make an easy catch.

"A long way from last year," said Rajai Davis, who shares center field with Gose.

"Night and day," said Dave Clark, who coaches the outfield for the Tigers.

In terms of range, in terms of outfield arm strength, in terms of saving runs, the Tigers outfield is vastly improved — possibly from worst to first in the American League.

"It saves a lot of games," Davis said. "As far as a defensive outfield, it ranks as the highest I've ever played on."

The addition of Cespedes and Gose is the primary reason for the improvement. It allows J.D. Martinez to play in right field, where he is most comfortable.

"We had a lot of moving parts last year," Davis said. "And they were continuously moving. You can't have that. Now, the only moving part is me and Anthony in center field, so we stay consistent."

In terms of defensive runs saved, the Tigers outfield were a minus-44 last season — the worst in the American League. So far this year, they are a plus-5. Cespedes is plus-4, Davis and Gose plus-1 and Martinez is minus-1.

"I think the outfield assists are obviously a direct correlation to two of the arms that we have out there," Ausmus said of Gose and Cespedes. "Generally speaking when you've got guys who can run, you're going to cover more ground and catch more balls.

"Defensively, really, not only in the outfield but all over the field has been better."

Cespedes, though, has been somewhat of a revelation.

"I haven't seen anybody in the last few years I could compare him to," Clark said. "He goes about his business the right way. When he's out there he's got one thing on his mind, he wants to catch the ball.

"And if it's a ground ball, he wants to throw somebody out."

Because of the speed in center, Cespedes can, depending on the hitter and situation, play a little closer to the left-field line. This has enabled him to take away both the bloop hits, as well as some doubles.

"He's got good instincts," said Clark, who handles the outfield positioning. "His positioning is good, he knows a lot of the hitters. I really believe having Gose out there helps, too. He's one of those guys who moves the corner guys around and we give him leeway to do that.

"A lot of times Cespedes is in a good position because of where Gose moved him."

Both Gose and Davis, though, had to quickly get used to Cespedes' range. All you need is one near-miss collision with Cespedes to learn to respect his space.

"He covers so much ground, I just let him have all that side and I am going to take all this side," Davis said, laughing. "But you don't want to run into that guy. He's like a Mack truck. He's going to run me over and crush some bones."

Around the horn

Bruce Rondon will pitch Thursday and Sunday in Toledo. Ausmus said Rondon will have to pitch in back-to-back games there before he will be activated. Ausmus said that wouldn't happen Monday. So, Rondon will make at least four appearances for the Mud Hens.

…The Tigers had some fun at their manager's expense Wednesday. They were wearing T-shirts that read "Dreamy" with a photo of Ausmus. "Alex (Avila) walked in with it on, to show me, like he had a question to ask," Ausmus said.

Ausmus was asked if he got one. "If it starts a winning streak, I'll wear one," he said.

Joe Nathan, out for the year after Tommy John surgery, visited the clubhouse for the first time since the surgery.