In need of some pop, Tigers stick with J.D.

In need of some pop, Tigers stick with J.D.

DETROIT -- Marcus Thames defined his Tigers tenure as a spot outfield starter for whenever former manager Jim Leyland wanted some pop. J.D. Martinez doesn't have the same degree of power bat, but for the time being, he's seeing a similar role for current manager Brad Ausmus.

With Ausmus searching for run production, Martinez started on Saturday for the third consecutive game and the fourth time in five games this week, his best stretch of playing time since he started three games in Oakland at the end of May. Saturday's start came at the expense of Rajai Davis, who was out of the lineup for a second straight game.

Davis' speed makes him a catalyst in the lineup. Martinez's line-drive power makes him more likely to provide an extra-base hit. Though he hasn't shown as much of the home run power that earned him a call from Triple-A Toledo with 10 April home runs, his seven doubles and three homers account for half of his hits on the year.

"He's swung the bat pretty well," Ausmus said before Saturday's game. "He's gotten some hits. He's dangerous. We've had a little trouble scoring runs. He's got the ability to drive in runs."

For Davis, it marked the first time since April 30-May 2 that he was out of the starting lineup for back-to-back games. He appeared in Friday's loss as a pinch-runner, though he did not stay in the game for the ninth inning, costing Ausmus a bat off the bench when lefty closer Glen Perkins faced Don Kelly in the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead.

Ausmus said Saturday that Davis is fully healthy.

Divided playing time is more like the role Davis was expected to fill when he signed with the Tigers in the offseason. Andy Dirks' back injury in Spring Training shifted Davis into more of an everyday role.

With Dirks potentially closing in on a Minor League rehab assignment by the end of next week, his return could leave the Tigers with some decisions to make, both with Martinez's status on the roster and Davis' playing time against right-handed pitchers.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.