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Tigers lineup construction: Candelario earned right to hit clean-up, Gardenhire says

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Toronto – His desk inside the visitors’ clubhouse was littered with paper, various memos, statistical spread sheets, etc. – but not one of those documents contained a suggested lineup from the Tigers' analytics department.

Jeimer Candelario

“I have more analytical stuff than you can shake a stick at,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before season-opener Thursday. “But they didn’t send me a lineup. I didn’t get one. I’m going to talk to them about that. I want to see their opinion, not just percentages.”

The lineup Gardenhire went with is one that was mostly set early in spring training – Josh Harrison, Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera at the top, and Grayson Greiner, Jordy Mercer and the center fielder (for now Mikie Mahtook) at the bottom.

It was the middle three that he was juggling right to the end. He settled on using switch-hitters Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum in the Nos. 4-5 holes and left-handed hitting Christin Stewart sixth.

“Candy’s been swinging it good,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a switch-hitter just like Goody. Those guys showed they can get on base and I want somebody there who is going to put it in play. I don’t want strikeouts and I know Goody has had a tendency to get punched out.”

Through spring training, Gardenhire first had Stewart hitting fourth, then he gave Goodrum a long look there.

“I think this balances it pretty good,” he said. “Having Candy there is pretty important. He gets on base. He’s not afraid to take a walk and he can really hit. And as spring went along, I felt one of the more consistent at-bats we were getting was from Candy.”

Interesting, too, that Goodrum, one of the better fielders on the squad, was in the DH spot. He could probably improve the overall defense in left field and right field. But Gardenhire wasn’t going to fool around with that on Opening Day.

“I will (play Goodrum in left), but not right now,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t want that to be the picture for Stew out there. I don’t want to start messing with his mental psyche the first day of the season. All of a sudden he’s a DH?

“He doesn’t need that and I don’t need that. And Goody is used to it. Goody doesn’t care as long as he gets to swing. He’s fine.”

Twitter @cmccosky