Detroit — Moving Victor Martinez out of the cleanup spot was a major issue for the Tigers last season.
There were months of debate about it — within the organization and the media. When he was finally moved down in the batting order, it became a breaking point between Martinez and former manager Brad Ausmus — mainly because the move was made immediately after Martinez came off the disabled list and without prior consultation.
Last Friday in Boston, manager Ron Gardenhire, very quietly, moved Martinez to the No. 5 hole in the lineup and put Jeimer Candelario in the cleanup spot. No pushback, no debate, no problem.
“We just had a conversation,” Gardenhire said. “I told him what we were looking for and I showed him what we were talking about. He had no problem either way. He doesn’t care, as long as you communicate with him.
“He’s very easy. He’s just having a blast playing baseball. It was a simple conversation. He said, ‘You do what you’ve got to do to help the team.'”
Gardenhire said the lineup suggestions he gets daily from the analytics department have had Martinez in the No. 5 hole, “every time.”
“Candy is a guy who can get on base and things can happen,” Gardenhire said. “He gets on in front of Vic and they’re holding him on (first base) — it gives Vic another shot to hook a ball through there, which he can do.
“But more than anything else, Candy is a guy who can drive the ball, too.”
Candelario came in with better on-base and slugging percentages than Martinez — .350-.308 and .507-.348. And, not for nothing, Candelario leads the Tigers with 10 home runs.
“He can pop a baseball, from both sides of the plate,” Gardenhire said. “I think he has a really good eye at the plate and he commands the strike zone really well for a young guy. I think we really have something here, if he continues this way and stays healthy.”
Short sample size, but Martinez had gone 3-for-11 with an RBI batting fifth before Tuesday, and Candelario was 2-for-14 with a game-winning, two-run homer.
This has not been easy on Tigers lefty Daniel Stumpf. He was not built for inactivity.
“It sucks being on the disabled list,” he said. “It’s something I never planned on happening to me.”
It happens to everybody, especially pitchers who throw in 28 of his team’s first 54 games. Stumpf is battling back from nerve irritation in his elbow. He has been throwing out to 120 feet for about week and on Tuesday he threw lightly off the mound.
“I threw my breaking ball and change-up off flat ground, too,” he said. “I think I’m ahead of time, just in terms of what we were thinking. You always make those schedules based on worst-case scenarios. I feel good.
“I am ready to start up with whatever I need to do to get back.”
Stumpf will throw a full bullpen on Thursday and will probably throw one or two more before embarking on a rehab assignment.
“I don’t feel it anymore,” he said. “The swelling has gone down and that’s what they were hoping for.”
Stumpf has been a workout warrior since he’s been shut down. He’s been running like he’s training for a marathon and lifting weights. He’s put himself on a stricter shoulder program and has taken treatment on his forearm.
He knows the Tigers will probably ease him back in, but that’s the last thing he wants.
“I have already told Gardy and those guys that I will take the ball whenever they give it to me,” Stumpf said. “I would anticipate the first few times they are going to make sure everything is OK before they say, ‘Let’s get back to going.’
“I’ve missed some time, but I see myself in the very near future catching up to everyone in appearances again.”
Moving Candelario to the cleanup spot, putting Nick Castellanos in the No. 2 hole, extensive infield shifting — Gardenhire has incorporated a lot of the data he’s been given from the Tigers’ beefed-up and still-expanding analytics department.
But you aren’t going to completely kill the old-school in him. And that’s a good thing.
“Analytics, when you start to look at it — really good teams, I promise you, their numbers are going to look really good because they’ve got really good baseball players,” he said. “So their numbers are a lot easier.
“When you’ve got young players mixing in with older players like we have, it’s a little harder. The formulas are a little different because we don’t have enough info.”
Gardenhire paused and looked over at his computer.
“Teams like Houston, analytically, you look at their lineup — I’d like to try that one,” he said. “That’d be fun. The Yankees, I could try that one. But this is what we have and we’re making it work the best we can.”
Around the horn
Shane Greene and Castellanos debuted their 619 Podcast on MLB.com Tuesday.
Gardenhire was asked if had any interest in being their guest in the future.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It sounds real dangerous to me. I may have to say no to those two young men and let them have their fun.”
...As expected, the Tigers recalled catcher Grayson Greiner from Triple-A Toledo before the game Tuesday.
Starting catcher James McCann is still fighting a flu bug that went through his entire household. He said he would be available to pinch-hit if needed.
…The Tigers signed six of their draft picks Tuesday: CF Kingston Liniak (fourth round); CF Eric De La Rosa (seventh round); CF Brock Deatherage (10th round); SS Kelvin Smith (20th round); 3B John Valente (21st round) and RHP Chavez Fernander (35th round).