CLEVELAND -- The drive from White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson sent Leonys Martin to the warning track. And yet, as the Tigers center fielder ran down the sixth-inning shot on Saturday, denying Anderson what initially looked like a potential RBI double, he made it look easy."It's like he glides," outfield
CLEVELAND -- The drive from White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson sent Leonys Martin to the warning track. And yet, as the Tigers center fielder ran down the sixth-inning shot on Saturday, denying Anderson what initially looked like a potential RBI double, he made it look easy.
"It's like he glides," outfield coach Dave Clark said on Sunday.
Martin covered 92 feet on the 374-foot drive, according to Statcast™. Welington Castillo tagged up from second base on the catch, but he was stranded at third base two pitches later.
Earlier in the game, Martin chased after Nicky Delmonico's line drive into the gap in left-center, sliding to stop the ball from rolling to the fence. Martin nearly threw him out at second base.
While Martin has yet to come up with a highlight catch, he's quietly making a difference in the Tigers' outfield on defense. His combination of foot speed and first step allows him to cover so much ground, Clark notes, that they can align their defense in many different ways. Even when a hitter goes against his tendency, Martin has enough range to make up for it.
In that sense, he's a prototypical center fielder for the vast outfield gaps of Comerica Park. But as their sweep of the White Sox showed, there's a value to it on the road as well.
"We talk about defense a lot," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He definitely covers it, and I think he's pretty underrated as far as some of those things go."
The Tigers knew about Martin's range when they signed him as a free agent this past offseason. According to Statcast™, he caught 90 percent of the fly balls hit to him last year, compared to the 84 percent expected average. That additional 6 percent catch rate tied for the Major League lead among center fielders.
Seeing that difference in person is another thing. Martin has the chance to make the biggest defensive impact for a Tigers center fielder since Austin Jackson's rookie season in 2010.
Gardenhire has been impressed with other aspects of Martin's defensive game as well.
"His arm strength is unbelievable, and he's pretty accurate, too," Gardenhire said. "He's got a cannon, and I didn't really know that before this year."
Gardenhire, Francona match up again
Gardenhire and Terry Francona broke into the Major Leagues as players in the same year, 1981. They were division foes in the National League East -- Gardenhire with the Mets, Francona with the Expos.
They were division rivals as managers for the last two seasons of Gardenhire's Twins tenure after Francona took over the Indians. They're matched up in the American League Central again, a rivalry Gardenhire looks forward to renewing.
"I've known him for a long, long time," Gardenhire said on Monday. "Great baseball guy, very positive person, very intelligent baseball manager. He knows the game as well as anybody. He doesn't miss too much. One of the better guys in the game. ...
"With his teams, you can't ever turn your head. He keeps you on your toes when you're managing against his teams. They're not afraid to do anything, and that's probably the biggest thing. They're not afraid to make mistakes. They'll get after you, and I hope that's the way we're going to be. I like guys running all over the place and trying to take advantage, and his teams have always done that, too. It starts with good players, and he's had some good ones around here, but he knows how to use them as well."
• Gardenhire made a minor tweak to his batting order on Monday, flipping Michael Mahtook and James McCann in the sixth and seventh spots. Gardenhire initially flipped them on Sunday when John Hicks started behind the plate, but kept the change with McCann back in Monday's lineup.
"We're going to move people around in different matchups," Gardenhire said. "We're going to get everybody in here, too. It's early. I think there's no problem with what's going on. But we're going to mix people around. So the lineup will change here and there."
• Jose Cabrera's sacrifice fly on Sunday gave him 1,622 RBIs, moving him within one of Chipper Jones for 31st on the Major League's all-time list.
• The Tigers' seven stolen bases in their sweep of the White Sox marked their highest total in a three-game series since stealing eight bases against the Indians on April 24-26, 2015.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.