It's not that the Tigers didn't want Curtis Granderson playing against any left-handed starters, manager Jim Leyland insisted Wednesday. It's that as few lefties as they've seen, there proved to be few opportunities to start someone else in Granderson's place and keep the bench fresh.
That mind-set is done. For the near future, Granderson is going to be an everyday player.
"He's a catalyst for us," Leyland said. "We've got to get him going. That's important."
It's not a revolutionary experiment for Leyland, who talked in Spring Training about having Granderson see more left-handed pitchers and has had him do so for brief spurts over the past couple of seasons.
Granderson, for his part, has said several times over the past couple of years that he doesn't mind seeing left-handed pitchers, that doing so often helps him against right-handers because it forces him to concentrate longer on the pitch.
"You have to stay on them. In order to have success against them, everything has to go right," Granderson said. "So having success against a lefty can translate into success the next day against a right-hander. But you have to do everything right that day. It's not going to just happen automatically jumping in against a lefty."
The way Granderson has been struggling lately, though, it's worth putting him in there to try. He entered Wednesday's start against Angels lefty Joe Saunders batting .194 (13-for-67) in 18 games since May 7. He has four two-hit games over the last two weeks, including Saturday's romp over the Twins, but was out of the starting lineup the day after three of them because of a lefty. He was 1-for-9 through the first two games of the current series. He entered Wednesday batting .241 in 31 games this season with five doubles, six home runs and 16 RBIs.
Part of the trouble, Leyland said, has been a tendency to pull off on the ball, something Granderson can't do against left-handers.
"I think there's been some at-bats where he's pulled off the ball," Leyland said. "I won't say every at-bat, because that's not fair to him. But he has pulled off the ball some. So I'm going to give it a shot and play him."
Plus, Leyland added, "We want to make him a regular player in the big leagues."
Leyland also has openly wondered whether Granderson's right hand, which he injured near the end of Spring Training, is bothering him. Granderson, however, says it is not, and the Tigers athletic training staff has seen no sign that would suggest otherwise.
Granderson responded in his first at-bat against Saunders, watching some pitches to try to get a look at his fastball before lining an opposite-field single to left.
"For today, it's a decent sign," Granderson said afterwards. "But we have to see how that carries over to the next series. So I'm not going to take too much out of it."
The difference, it turns out, will be minor on this trip. The Mariners shuffled their lineup for this weekend series against the Tigers, pushing back lefty Jarrod Washburn out of the series altogether and moving up Felix Hernandez to Saturday and Miguel Batista to Sunday. The next lefty Detroit is scheduled to face will be Oakland rookie Dana Eveland next week.
By playing Granderson Wednesday, the Tigers were able to rest Carlos Guillen, whom Leyland had planned on using at designated hitter. Ryan Raburn, who would've otherwise started for Granderson in center field, moved over to right. Magglio Ordonez shifted to DH.
Guillen said Wednesday he was starting to feel better in his bout with hemorrhoids, but Leyland felt it best to give Guillen a day off ahead of Thursday's off-day, then see how he felt for Friday's series opener at Seattle.
"I'm going to stand him for a couple days," Leyland said, intentionally avoiding the term to sit him given his condition.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.