Notes: Wilson hits third, and homers

Notes: Wilson hits third, and homers

CHICAGO -- Vance Wilson looked at Sunday's lineup and thought he had another day off. Instead, he had a day in the middle of the lineup.

As promised, manager Jim Leyland gave catcher Ivan Rodriguez Sunday off, replacing him with Wilson. What wasn't anticipated was that he'd hit Wilson in Rodriguez's usual No. 3 spot, right in front of cleanup hitter Magglio Ordonez.

Ordonez had to look twice, too.

"When I first looked," Wilson said, "I didn't think I was playing, because I wasn't at the bottom. Last time I hit third, I was an All-American in junior college."

Asked how surprised he was, Wilson said flatly, "Nothing he does surprises me."

On the surface, it looked like a Leyland motivational tactic designed to make his bench players feel just as important to the team's fortunes as the star sluggers. But there was a tactical method to Leyland's madness.

"If I hit Wilson eighth and he makes an out, and I have to double switch," Leyland said, "I can't really put Pudge in. I really can't do it with my catcher today. I didn't want to set myself up for that."

Wilson didn't make an out until the Tigers had double-digit runs. He reached base safely on a sacrifice bunt and Mark Prior error in teh first inning, was hit by an 0-2 pitch in the third, then hit a two-run homer in the fourth to knock Prior out of the game.

Rodriguez could've played on Sunday. He was taken out for the ninth inning simply for rest rather than the leg cramps that forced him out on Friday. That said, Leyland wanted to rest him after sweating through back-to-back games on hot afternoons.

It was an easier tactic to take with Wilson batting .293 this season entering the day. He was batting .333 (16-for-48) with three doubles, a home run and eight RBIs over his last 17 games.

"I have a lot of confidence in Vance Wilson," Leyland continued. "I think he's a pretty good hitter. But there's nothing tricky here. I mean, it's just common sense to me."

It's common sense for someone who managed 14 years in the National League. This weekend has been his first taste of managing that style of ball again, with double-switches and pinch-hitting for pitchers, since he managed the Colorado Rockies seven years ago.

In some ways, it's been a refresher course for him, one that has left him and third-base coach Gene Lamont in the dugout debating the pros and cons of possible moves the last couple days.

"It's been fun," Leyland admitted. "Gene has been a godsend for me. I've been getting back into the swing of things managing, period."

Take a hack: The one notable time when Leyland and Lamont had their signals crossed came when Leyland let setup man Fernando Rodney bat in the ninth inning.

"I told Rodney not to swing," Leyland said. "He looks over [to third base] and Gene's telling him to swing the bat."

Rodney went with Lamont's instruction, taking his best hacks before grounding out back to the pitcher. It was enough comic relief the first time that Tigers players called up the video of it again on Sunday morning for a replay.

But as Lamont pointed out, the cross-up had as much to do with what Rodney wanted to hear. "If [Leyland] had told him to swing and I had told him to take," Lamont said, "he would've listened to the manager."

Minor matters: The Lakeland Tigers turned out the star player of Saturday's Class A Florida State League All-Star Game came to Joker Marchant Stadium. Lakeland outfielder Jeff Frazier hit a two-run homer and earned the Star of Stars award. Frazier also participated in the pregame home run derby, homering once in that contest.

Lakeland relievers Jeff Hahn and Kevin Whelan finished up the West Division's 7-4 win by combining for 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Coming up: The Tigers' Interleague tour takes them on a bus to Milwaukee, where they'll start a three-game series on Monday night with an 8:05 p.m. ET contest at Miller Park. Jeremy Bonderman (6-4, 4.01 ERA) will try to extend his unbeaten streak to four games after back-to-back no-decisions, including eight innings of one-run ball with 12 strikeouts on Wednesday against Tampa Bay. Lefty Doug Davis (4-4, 5.07 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Brewers.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.