Tigers manager Jim Leyland has a bit of a conundrum. He set his lineup to face a left-handed pitcher on Friday night. The game began, and lasted an inning and a half before being suspended. Now, the Yankees will send right-hander Ivan Nova to the mound. Since the game continues as if there was simply a 23 hour rain delay, Leyland is stuck with his lineup.
Sure, he can make substitutions. But they are substitutions. So each one shortens his bench and threatens to hamstring him later in the game.
So what do you do in Leyland's shoes? (Besides: Light a smoke. Find something to eat. Put your feet up on the desk and spray the reporters with food crumbs.)
The first thing is, remain calm. Leyland seems to be doing that.
The second thing -- which Leyland probably won't do -- is to check the splits. If you do, you'll find that Nova does not decimate right-handed batters. He actually has a reverse split during his major league career, so he's better against left-handers.
Maybe you don't want to change anything at all. Maybe you make a minor change or two. Just remember, the more moves you make early the less chess match you can play later. (And the more the fear of an untimely injury comes up.)
Honestly, I might make one change. I might not.
Doug Fister is a groundball pitcher. Keeping Brandon Inge in at third to help prevent runs seems like a pretty good idea to me. So I'm going to hold off on Wilson Betemit, to be honest.
However I might insert Ramon Santiago, a switch hitter, in at second base to further bolster the infield defense. If I'm feeling particularly randy, I move Raburn into the outfield so Santiago bats in the two-hole in place of Magglio Ordonez.
That's an interesting one to debate. First, it improves infield defense like I want. Second, Ordonez has hit well in the past month, but hasn't hit right-handers well in 2011. Raburn has hit like his butt is on fire for the past month, but also has some split problems against righties. Raburn leads Ordonez in both splits. (Again, I refer you back to Nova's splits and question how much of an impact this might actually be.) At least keeping Raburn in the game means that if Santiago or Jhonny Peralta suffered an injury, you'd still have a second baseman available. Taking Raburn out of the game means that you'd probably have to ask Don Kelly to do something he hasn't done in awhile: play the middle infield. But ultimately, we don't want to make too big a deal out of that point.
You could, of course, insert left-handed outfielder Andy Dirks in place of Ordonez as well. Not the worst idea either. He does have reverse splits too, but small sample size and all that like with Nova. Sill I don't mind keeping him on the bench at the start of the game either.
So there's all sorts of ideas out there. Which ones do ou prefer?