Detroit's manager felt good about the bottom of the order coming out of Spring Training, and the collective opening-month performance of the guys in the lower half of the lineup has justified that optimism.
"It's been nothing short of fantastic so far," Leyland said.
With guys like Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge, Josh Anderson, Ramon Santiago and Adam Everett anchoring the bottom of the order, opposing pitchers know they can't breathe a sigh of relief once they get past the heart of the lineup.
On Saturday, the Nos. 6-9 hitters combined for eight hits. Laird had three hits and a homer. Inge banged out two hits. Anderson offered a two-run triple and Everett had two hits. All four guys are at .300 or better. Inge has been on a homer/RBI binge through April, and Santiago had 11 runs batted in through the opening 15 games. Throw in the solid batting averages from those in the mix, and the Tigers can envision having a lineup from Nos. 1-9 that makes a pitcher constantly work under stress.
"The bottom of the order looks good," Anderson said. "We know who our big boppers are. If the other guys in the lower half of the lineup can support them by not making anything easy for the pitcher, it's going to be a good situation.
"Are we going to be hot all season at the bottom of the order? I don't know, but the fact is that we want to see pitches and not just give things away."
The bottom of the order will try to keep it going Sunday when the Tigers close out their road trip by taking on Kansas City's veteran right-hander Sidney Ponson.
"I feel our lineup top to bottom is as good as anybody's lineup," Anderson said. "You look at what a guy like Santiago has done. Phenomenal job. He has gotten big hits in big situations. Everybody down there has been chipping in."Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Armando Galarraga (2-0, 1.96 ERA)
After dominant outings in his first two starts, Galarraga finally had a struggle on his hands Tuesday, thanks to the Angels. A combination of well-placed singles and early walks pushed Galarraga's pitch total past 80 before he could get the second out of the third inning. He made it through five innings, but needed 110 pitches to do it. Fortunately for Galarraga, he has an excellent chance for a rebound at Kansas City, where his last outing, on July 23, saw him take a perfect game into the seventh inning before finally giving up a run on three hits. KC: RHP Sidney Ponson (0-2, 7.04 ERA)
After making it through his first two starts with creditable six-inning outings, Ponson bogged down Tuesday night at Cleveland. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up six runs on eight hits and four walks. He also gave up his first homer of the year, Grady Sizemore's three-run shot. Ponson's command was off; he made 80 pitches and only 43 were strikes. So he'll have to upgrade his performance against the Tigers, against whom he's 4-4 with a 6.62 ERA in nine career games. Tidbits
Joel Zumaya made his Major League return by working the ninth inning on Saturday. Zumaya allowed two hits, but no runs. It was his first Major League appearance since Aug. 12, 2008. ... The Tigers will be monitoring left-hander Dontrelle Willis' rehab start Sunday for Double-A Erie. "I think the process is Lakeland, Erie and Toledo -- but I can't tell you when that would happen," Leyland said. "Some of that will depend on how he does [Sunday], and how he feels afterwards." ... Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, who guided the Spartans to the NCAA title game against North Carolina, will throw out the first pitch at Monday's Tigers-Yankees game in Comerica Park. Tickets
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Monday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 0-2, 9.00) vs. Yankees (CC Sabathia, 1-1, 4.81), 7:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Tigers (Edwin Jackson, 1-1, 2.77) vs. Yankees (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Tigers (Rick Porcello, 1-2, 4.50) vs. Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 0-0, 3.94), 7:05 p.m. ET
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less