LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has spent most of Spring Training deliberating the idea of batting Nicholas Castellanos second in front of Jose Cabrera. As the Tigers readied to take batting practice Monday before their 11-3 loss to the Braves, Ausmus was weighing Plan B.
With J.D. Martinez out for a projected three to four weeks with a midfoot sprain of the Lisfranc ligament in his right foot, the Tigers not only lose their right fielder, but they face a void in the middle of their lineup.
"[Bench coach] Gene Lamont and I were just talking about that," Ausmus said during batting practice. "It definitely changes it, because now you have to [ask], 'Is your lineup shortened by hitting Nick second? Is it deeper if he hits fifth or sixth?' I would say I haven't come to a decision as to what I'm going to do, but literally 20 minutes ago I was scratching it out on a piece of paper. Gene Lamont and I were looking it at both ways."
J.D. Martinez spent most of last year batting fifth behind Cabrera and Victor Martinez, with Justin Upton batting sixth. When a fractured elbow sidelined J.D. Martinez last summer, Castellanos moved into the fifth spot for most of that stretch.
The question now is whether the Tigers are better off putting Castellanos there again. One big difference between then and now is Upton. When Castellanos was batting fifth last summer, Upton was still struggling. He comes into this season still feeling the momentum of the six-week tear he posted down the stretch last year.
Ausmus is compiling his ideas.
"It's a little more straightforward, I think, versus a left-handed pitcher," Ausmus said. "It's a little bit less obvious with a right-handed pitcher."
That would seem to suggest a potential difference in an outfield platoon of Michael Mahtook and Tyler Collins, either in center or right field. However, Ausmus said who's in center or right field "doesn't play too much into it."
That could suggest more about the ability for Jose Iglesias to bat second against a left-handed pitcher. The right-handed batter is a .288 career hitter with a .764 OPS off lefties.