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Leyland tempers expectations with shift

Leyland tempers expectations with shift

DETROIT -- Though Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't use his new corner infield duo on Wednesday, he reiterated that he felt like the move would make his team better. But if anyone expects Carlos Guillen to top what Brandon Inge can do defensively at third, Leyland said, they're not being fair.

"People have to understand, there's not probably two teams in baseball that could replace Brandon Inge defensively at third base," Leyland said. "We understand that. We're talking about making our team better, in our opinion. Brandon Inge, in my opinion, is arguably the best or close to the best defensive third baseman in the American League. We understand all that."

Leyland said he was asked about moving Guillen and Miguel Cabrera during his appearance at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon on Wednesday afternoon, and he answered it much the same way as he did in announcing the shift on Tuesday night. But he also expected the question of Inge to come up, since he was the starting third baseman for the previous three seasons and is looking at possibly a big drop in playing time with Curtis Granderson back and Gary Sheffield likely a day or two away.

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"Are we going to come up with a better defensive third baseman than Brandon Inge? No," Leyland said. "But Cabrera and Guillen are going to play, and we think this is the best option."

With Gary Sheffield out of the lineup on Wednesday after taking cortisone shots in his sore shoulder on Tuesday, the switch did not go into effect yet. Cabrera started as Wednesday's designated hitter, while Carlos Guillen remained at first base and Inge started at third.

Leyland does not anticipate a problem with Guillen's knees at third base anymore than he would with Guillen at first because of the range involved. He also stated his belief that Cabrera could be a good fielder at first base.

To make the switch, Leyland said, was part of his job as a manager.

"In the long run," he said, "I believe your job is to get the most out of your players to put them in the best position to be successful."

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

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