Lakeland, Fla. – With less than three weeks left before the season opener, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is starting to get a good idea about how he wants his batting order to look.
And, if things break the way he hopes, the first three hitters in the lineup will be Josh Harrison, Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera.
"One thing I want to see is Casty and Cabrera getting at-bats in the first inning," Gardenhire said after the Tigers and a Yankees' split-squad played to a 2-2 tie in a Grapefruit League game Sunday. "I don't want Cabrera leading off an inning. I've already seen with him batting fourth.
"I've seen him lead off innings like three times and I don't think that's kosher for our team. I am going to try and figure out a way for both of those guys to hit in the first inning. I think that's really important for the baseball team."
The Tigers went out in order in the first inning Sunday and Cabrera led off the second with his second home run of the spring. Having him hitting the occasional solo home run at the start of an inning isn't the best usage for the future Hall-of-Famer.
"I'm going to try to find a way to fix that," Gardenhire said. "I want both of those guys to get more at-bats and I want them to hit in the first inning."
Gardenhire batted Castellanos second and Cabrera third last season, before Cabrera was injured. They had Victor Martinez in the fourth spot. It's likely that either Christin Stewart, John Hicks or Jeimer Candelario could hit fourth.
"The lineup doesn't balance out as well," he said. "If you have a good lineup, it can work all the way through. But you just have to play with these guys, how they match-up. But hopefully you can have somebody at the bottom of the order who can get on base, then you can roll it over to some pretty good hitters."
Gardenhire said nothing is set in stone and he expects to get a lot of input from the analytics staff about the batting order closer to the end of camp.
"I'm not afraid to do any of it," he said. "Analytically, we have to discuss some things, but this is something I've read a lot about. Putting your best hitters up there. And you see the Yankees running that big boy up there batting second (Giancarlo Stanton) -- it's different than it used to be.
"But I am not afraid to do it."
Harrison hitting lead-off, again, has yet to be sanctioned by analytics. But it seems like a no-brainer.
"I want somebody with experience up there," Gardenhire said. "That's something we really struggled with last year. He's got nearly 1,200 at-bats leading off (1,191). He knows how to lead off. He's not afraid to take pitches.
"My goal is to keep him there. Now, analytically, I haven't had a lineup written out for me but once we get into the season, they'll do that and we will have a lot of conversation about it. But on our ball club, he's about as good as they get for it."
Matt Moore on point
That was the Matt Moore the Tigers were hoping to see when they signed him for $2.5 million this winter.
Granted, the left-hander was facing a watered-down Yankees lineup Sunday, but it was easily the sharpest of his four spring outings. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowed just two singles and struck out six.
"He threw strikes with all of his pitches," Gardenhire said. "And he really used his fastball well. I think he got away from thinking about too many mechanical things and just pounded the zone. That's what we need to do."
Moore’s fastball was sitting at 92-93 mph, even touching 94 four times – twice in the first inning and twice in the fourth.
"The goal for us is always to impose our will before they are allowed to," Moore said. "I think I did a good job staying ahead of guys and attacking the zone with all three pitches and getting the hitters in the swing mode.
"That was a big deal for me."
Unofficially, Moore induced 11 swings and misses in 56 pitches (39 strikes).
He had to work out of one jam, and it’s one he created all by himself. In the second, he gave up a leadoff single to Miguel Andujar and then put him on second with an errant pick-off throw. With one out, he hit Kyle Holder on an 0-2 pitch.
"You always have things you need to work on," he said. "That snap throw, that's something I haven't done in spring training. And getting more comfortable with a runner at second base, too.
"Hitting him on an 0-2 pitch is a big mistake. And I think it was just too much (focus) on the second base and not enough on the guy at the plate."
Second baseman Harrison saved a run, though, taking an RBI single away from Matt Lipka. Harrison ranged far to his left, got to the ball on a full dive, then got up and made a strong throw to first.
"It's probably a very different outcome if he doesn't make that play," Moore said.
Moore ended the inning striking out Ryan McBroom. He locked him up with a 2-2 change-up.
Joe Jimenez and Rule 5 draftee Reed Garrett followed with scoreless innings. Left-hander Jose Fernandez, in the fight for a bullpen spot, also threw a scoreless inning.