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Ausmus looking to solidify middle of lineup

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With right-hander Bruce Rondon set to undergo Tommy John surgery, the Tigers' bullpen is going to be a work in progress early on this season. Manager Brad Ausmus would like to see someone step up and take command of the late-inning setup roles.

The same thing could be said of the middle of the Tigers' lineup, Ausmus admitted before Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Catcher Alex Avila and center fielder Austin Jackson figure to see most of their at-bats in those positions, and Detroit could use productive seasons from both players to back up Victor Martinez and reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera.

"That area of the lineup is probably most in flux, really. It may be a situation where it changes depending on who the opponent's starter is," Ausmus said. "I would prefer that be a situation where someone hits in that spot or in those spots and excels, and we can leave them there. But they're not etched in stone."

The recent onslaught of injuries has affected the Tigers in many ways, from the bullpen to their bench and overall depth, but it hasn't really affected their lineup depth. Jose Iglesias was expected to hit ninth, anyway. That's not to say Ausmus isn't concerned about getting production out of the bottom half of his batting order.

"We're certainly looking for a couple guys to return to form, which I think would be a huge relief," Ausmus said. "We'd like to see Alex bounce back. I think he's a much better hitter than he showed last year. He's had some good at-bats. He's had some normal Spring Training at-bats. He's had some good at-bats against left-handed pitchers, which is good to see. I'm hoping that Alex bounces back, returns to form."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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