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A's-Tigers notebook: Leyland not ready to address future

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Over the past week, the Cincinnati Reds fired 64-year-old manager Dusty Baker, and Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson retired at age 70.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who turns 69 in December, was asked Thursday if watching two of baseball's oldest skippers either lose or leave jobs affects his decision on how much longer he wants to manage.

"I'm still tickin'," Leyland said before the Tigers faced the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

Is Leyland coming back to manage the Tigers next season?

"Well, we have a policy in Detroit because I've been on a one-year contract for several years now, we don't discuss my situation until probably the day or two after the final game," he said. "Hopefully that's not for a while yet.

"That's a policy we've had. We didn't announce anything last year until afterwards, so that will be the same policy this year."

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The red-hot Jhonny Peralta, who started Games 3 and 4 in left field for the Tigers, returned to shortstop, his natural position, for Game 5, pushing Jose Iglesias to the bench. Don Kelly started in left field.

Iglesias is a better defensive shortstop than Peralta, but Peralta is much more experienced at shortstop than in the outfield, and Kelly is a solid left fielder. Peralta entered Game 5 batting .375 (3-for-8) with five RBIs, a double and a three-run homer, which he hit in Detroit's 8-6 win in Game 4.

Kelly went 2-for-3 in a Game 2 start against A's right-hander Sonny Gray, who started Game 5. Iglesias was 1-for-12 through the first four games.

"Defense in left field is important, too, and (Peralta has) played shortstop a whole lot more than he's played left field," Leyland said. "I will share this with you. Although the manager makes the decision, I can tell you that I discussed this with my coaching staff, and it was unanimous. We're trying to keep the bat in there.

"If you remember what I said in Detroit the other day, we're trying to keep another over-the-fence bat in there. Really what you're doing is playing Kelly for Jose Iglesias. Donny Kelly had two hits off of Gray the other night. He put a hit and run in play. He's an excellent defender in left field. So when we weighed all the options, this was a decision that I ended up making after some discussion, and this is on me."

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Oakland's Alberto Callaspo made his first start of the series in Game 5, playing second base in place of Eric Sogard.

"I think like any game, particularly in the postseason, particularly in a Game 5, you're looking to try to get your best lineup, your hottest hitters up there as many times as you can," A's manager Bob Melvin said before the game. "Similar to what they're doing with Jhonny Peralta at short. They're trying to get their best offense in there, and that's the reason Callaspo is there."

Callaspo entered the game 1-for-3 in the series with a double, while Sogard was 0-for-9.

Melvin also juggled his batting order, dropping Brandon Moss from fourth to sixth while moving Yoenis Cespedes up one spot to cleanup and Seth Smith up one spot to fifth. In the first four games, Cespedes batted .389 (7-for-18) with a double, a triple, a home run and four RBIs. Smith entered Game 5 batting .417 (5-for-12) with a homer and two RBIs. Moss was hitting .133 (2-for-15) with a home run and 10 strikeouts.

"There are times with Brandon Moss, being a 30-homer guy, I try to insulate him in between a couple of righties," Melvin said. "But Cespedes, swinging as well as he is right now, I just wanted to move him up a spot. Seth Smith is swinging the bat real well right now, and so move him up, and Brandon Moss moves down to the six spot. It's all about moving the guys who are hitting the best up in the lineup."
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