Ausmus to employ infield shift judiciously
CLEVELAND -- The Tigers shifted fewer times than any team in the American League last season. It's not ignorance to defensive tendencies so much as it's judiciousness on the part of manager Brad Ausmus. The lefty-heavy Indians' lineup might provide a good example why.
Though Cleveland boasts two of the top 12 shifted players in the Majors last season in Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss -- along with several other left-handed batters -- Ausmus said there's a risk to shifting every pitch against the Tribe's nine.
"The problem is that the guys you would shift against on this team have bunted against the shift, guys like Moss and Santana, even Lonnie Chisenhall I believe. The other guys (such as Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis) are probably too fast to shift against.
"Santana's bunted a number of times, Moss not as much but I think he had 10 bunt attempts last year, and I'm assuming they were against the shift."
Santana had two bunt singles in six attempts last season, only one of which was on the first pitch of an at-bat. Chisenhall was 2-for-2 on bunting for hits in 2014, both on first pitches. Moss was 2-for-10 on bunt-single attempts last year in Oakland, all on the first or second pitch.
"They kind of force you to be careful about your shifting tendencies," Ausmus said.
None of the three players attempted a bunt during Cleveland's season-opening series at Houston, where the Astros have much stronger shift inclinations.
The Tigers will still shift their infield, too, but they'll be careful about when.
"Count and score, especially later," Ausmus said.