Notes: Pudge put in top spot

Notes: Pudge put in top spot

BALTIMORE -- Ivan Rodriguez's injured toe and foot remain sore, but are improving, and the Tigers catcher was in the lineup for Wednesday's finale of the three-game series with the Orioles. In addition, Rodriguez batted in the leadoff spot, where manager Jim Leyland plans on putting him against some left-handers.

Nick Markakis fouled a ball that banged off the small toe on Rodriguez's left foot in Tuesday's 3-1 Detroit victory. Rodriguez was down for a long stretch and eventually needed several minutes before being able to get back behind the plate again.

Leyland had said after the game that he wasn't sure if Rodriguez would play in the finale, but the catcher said a few minutes later that he was fine. The skipper went ahead with the plan he's going to use this year -- putting Rodriguez in the top spot and moving normal leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson down to ninth -- against Orioles lefty Adam Loewen.

Leyland had planned to give Rodriguez his first day off on Thursday in Toronto, with Mike Rabelo getting his first start.

"Pudge is going to lead off against [several] left-handers," Leyland said. "His [foot] is fine. He could play tomorrow, but he won't."

The move worked fine in the first inning, as Rodriguez lined a single to right field.

Faring better: Granderson was one of the keys to the Tigers' American League championship run last year. The speedy center fielder batted .260 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs while scoring 60 runs and giving the Tigers some punch in the leadoff spot.

He's gotten off to a good start again this season, hitting .333 in the first seven games. Granderson doubled twice in Tuesday's win over the Orioles.

The center fielder also ranks second in the American League with two triples and seven extra-base hits. Granderson also is tied for second with 22 total bases and four multihit games, and he ranks third with an .815 slugging percentage.

But his speed lets Leyland make the aforementioned move to ninth because he likes having Granderson and Rodriguez, who also runs well, back to back.

"He's kind of a nice leadoff guy," Leyland said of Granderson. "He might be able to bunt for a hit or he might hit a home run. He's still got a lot of work to do, but he's improving all the time. He's really a good looking player right now."

Granderson doesn't mind the move to ninth at all.

"I used to do it a lot in high school. I did it a lot in college, too," he said. "Usually the nine hitter, they always thought was an easy out and they fed him fastballs, and I hope that's the case today, [but] it can easily be an RBI situation."

Feeling better: Rodriguez said his toe and foot were all right before Wednesday's game. It clearly bothered him following Tuesday's contest, but he was able to play following treatment.

One of the problems was the cold weather that the teams have played in throughout the three-game series. The temperature was in the mid-40s when Rodriguez got hit, and it didn't get warmer, making it harder for the catcher to get loose.

But Rodriguez said he would keep things simple batting in the leadoff spot Wednesday.

"I'm going to swing as hard as I can," Rodriguez said with a smile.

The first: For Rabelo, the start in Toronto will be the first of his big-league career. He's appeared in just one Major League game with one at-bat.

He's now filling in for the team's injured backup catcher, Vance Wilson.

Right on: Leyland loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters against the "nasty" Loewen. Eight of the nine Tigers in the order were righties, with Granderson being the lone lefty.

The skipper started Marcus Thames at first, batting seventh, and as promised Tuesday, he reinserted Brandon Inge at third. Leyland gave Inge a one-day break after he started the season 0-for-20.

Inge broke through with his first hit of the year, a single to right field in the top of the fourth inning on Wednesday.

Coming up: Left-hander Mike Maroth (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will take on righty Tomo Ohka (0-0, 10.38 ERA) on Thursday at 7:07 p.m. ET in the first game of a four-game series in Toronto. Maroth allowed four runs on six hits in five innings in Detroit's win in Kansas City on Saturday.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.