People had been waiting all offseason to hear what Brad Ausmus planned to do at the top of his batting order and how much different it would be from Jim Leyland‘s constantly never moving lineup. The answer was revealed partially as Ausmus announced his top 5 hitters for the very first Detroit Tigers spring training game, and perhaps the biggest surprise was not necessarily that Austin Jackson lost his spot at the top of the batting order but that he was given even more responsibility in the lineup being the team’s No. 5 hitter. Yes, you read that right; Austin Jackson is going to try out being one of the most valuable spots in a lineup.
Obviously there was quite a buzz at this news. While it isn’t permanent, if things click in this order it is likely to be what is handed to the umpires when opening day begins. Ausmus did not tinker with spots two through four, leaving Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and the obvious replacement for Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, in. It was pretty much a consensus that Jackson would be hitting either first or ninth in the order, but Ausmus decided that Jackson’s dynamic speed and overall talent make him a more attractive option than using rookie Nick Castellanos or veteran catcher Alex Avila. It’s refreshing to see a young manager not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Now is the time to make some gambles, and Ausmus is going ahead and rolling the dice. If it works out and is able to be thrown into regular season games effectively, Ausmus may just be onto something that could be huge for a Tigers offense that routinely goes cold. Jackson may have lost his top of the order spot for now, but he now has an arguably bigger role on this team; and for that he can thank the gambler in Ausmus.