Injury to Ordonez adds to Tigers’ lineup woes

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Detroit Tigers are running out of regulars.

Over 168 games, the last six on the American League side of the playoffs, manager Jim Leyland had three players bat third across 152 of them.

As of today, between Games 1 and 2 of the rain-sodden ALCS, all three are inactive.

A series that appeared to skew to the Texas Rangers anyway might have leaned further that way with Sunday’s news that veteran Magglio Ordonez(notes) had broken his right ankle and would be shut down for the remainder of the season. Given that Ordonez is 37 and the ankle has been so problematic – he had surgery last season and had to stay off it during painful periods this season – the development could be career threatening.

Magglio Ordonez warms up before Game 2 of the ALDS in New York. He hit .455 in that series, but an ankle injury ended his postseason prematurely.
(Getty Images)

“The ankle,” Leyland said, “is killing him.”

For the moment, however, the Tigers were occupied with the immediate issues of roster, lineup and batting order, first without Delmon Young(notes), who was acquired three weeks before previous No. 3 hitter Brennan Boesch(notes) would require thumb surgery, and now without Ordonez, who’d batted third before Boesch.

While Ordonez had batted second or sixth in the division series, then fifth in Saturday night’s ALCS opener because Young – the latest No. 3 hitter – suffered an oblique strain, he hit .455 against the New York Yankees in the ALDS. The right-handed hitting Ordonez was expected to have an impact especially against the Rangers, who feature three left-handed starters.

Ordonez came out of Saturday night’s game in the fifth inning. Sunday’s Game 2 was postponed because of rain and was rescheduled for Monday at 4:19 p.m. ET.

As far as a roster replacement for Ordonez, Leyland said, “I don’t have any information right now as to what we’re going to do because, to be honest with you, we don’t know.” He was to meet with general manager Dave Dombrowski later in the day.

They’ll be seeking offense. For, while the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in five games, they batted .228 in that series and were outscored 28-17. They won in spite of Miguel Cabrera(notes) batting .200, Victor Martinez(notes) batting .222 and their leadoff hitter, Austin Jackson(notes), batting .125. And in spite of having 13 baserunners in Game 1 of the ALCS, they scored twice and lost, 3-2.

Cabrera, Martinez and Ordonez, who batted third through fifth in Game 1, had one hit – a single – among them.

“Do I like this?” Leyland said. “Obviously, no. Do I like losing Delmon? Obviously, no. But, we’re a tough team. We’ll figure something out and we’ll get through this.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for us. We’ll make due. We’ll come out … tomorrow ready to play.”

The possibilities to replace Ordonez in the lineup – Don Kelly(notes) and Andy Dirks(notes) – bat left-handed. The Tigers could activate Young, who has a strained oblique, or Boesch in the hope one could be healthy enough to play as the series progressed.

The Tigers did catch something of a break with the weather, which bought them time to find solutions. Game 1 was delayed twice because of rain. When Sunday night promised more of the same – Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan stated ominously, “There’s a disturbance out in West Texas,” – the commissioner’s office chose not to risk further interruptions.

Both teams will stay on their pitching rotations, meaning right-hander Max Scherzer(notes) will start for the Tigers and lefty Derek Holland(notes) for the Rangers. Leyland said Justin Verlander(notes), who lost Saturday night for the first time since mid-July, would start Game 5, as scheduled.

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Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Oct 9, 2011