It wasn’t the worst call of Jim Leyland’s life. It may not have even been the worst call he made today. But Leyland opened the floodgates for a five-run 10th inning when he intentionally walked Jeff Francoeur in the 10th inning Thursday against the Royals. It was a 3-3 game at the time, but the Tigers went on to lose 8-3 after an Alex Gordon grand slam in the inning.
Francouer was walked by left-hander Phil Coke with one out and runners on second and third after a wild pitch. Coke had already walked a left-handed batter in the inning in Mike Moustakas and he went on to walk George Kottaras after the IBB, giving the Royals a one-run lead. Fellow lefty Darin Downs took over from there, and after getting a grounder to second that led to a forceout at home, he surrendered the slam to Gordon.
In truth, walking Francoeur there was a move a bunch of managers in Leyland’s position would have made. Francoeur has always hit lefties quite well. Even as lousy as he has been this season, he entered the day 7-for-18 against lefties, good for a .389 average. And on deck was a rusty left-handed hitting catcher with a career .194 average against lefties (Kottaras, who had taken over for Salvador Perez in the game, had just five plate appearances despite spending the whole season to date on the Royals’ roster). Coke’s entire reason for being is to retire left-handed batters, and if he could have gotten Kottaras for the second out, he had another set to hit in Chris Getz.
But this wasn’t Coke’s day. It is something that Leyland might have figured out during the walk to Moustakas, but if he was going to leave Coke in and not turn to a right-hander, then walking Francoeur was justified. Frankly, if I were going to blast Leyland about anything today, it’d be about giving yet another start to .118-hitting Don Kelly in left field.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.