"I'm going to try to play Thomas against right-handed pitching," Leyland said, "and Magglio against left-handed pitching. I don't know how it's going to play out, but that's what I'm going to do, see how it comes out."
Leyland called Ordonez into his office soon after he arrived in the Tigers clubhouse Wednesday afternoon to give him the news before posting the lineup and making it public. It was a quick meeting, but Ordonez seemed to take it in stride.
"If I was hitting home runs and RBIs, I'd be mad," Ordonez said. "But what can I do?"
It's the latest move by the Tigers to try to give their offense a spark, either with or without Ordonez. Though Ordonez had some encouraging at-bats at Minnesota over the weekend, including a three-run home run and a double last Saturday off Francisco Liriano, he's 1-for-10 since then, including 0-for-6 in the first two games of this series against Kansas City. He's 5-for-35 for his career off Greinke, though Thomas had the same average at 1-for-7 before his RBI single.
The 35-year-old Ordonez, an American League batting champion two years ago, entered Wednesday batting .260 with four home runs and 28 RBIs. He has shared the frustration of many and has taken a lot of extra batting practice with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, but nothing has produced consistent results.
Leyland said Ordonez will be back in the lineup Friday night against Indians left-hander Cliff Lee.
"I would definitely call it a platoon," Leyland said. "I would not call it benched."
Leyland did not say how long the platoon would last, and Ordonez wouldn't speculate.
"I have to produce first," Ordonez said.
Thomas played right field for an extended stretch earlier this season after being called up from Toledo in early May. With both Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames on the disabled list at that point, the Tigers used Ordonez as the designated hitter, Thomas in right and a combination of Ryan Raburn and Josh Anderson in left.
Thomas went on a tear in May, going 14-for-38 (.368) over his first nine games with three doubles, five RBIs and seven runs scored. He had a two-homer game May 30 at Baltimore before falling into a June swoon, going 3-for-29.
The Tigers optioned the 24-year-old back to Toledo on June 11 to have him work on shortening his long swing. He batted .349 (30-for-86) with the Mud Hens since then, but his progress will best be measured by how he fares against Major League pitching. He had 10 doubles in that stretch, but no home runs.
Leyland went so far as to call him a top prospect.
"He has a chance to be a complete player," Leyland said. "Now is he ready for that? I don't know just yet."