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 Shortstop mix working well for Tigers

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PostSubject: Shortstop mix working well for Tigers   Thu Sep 24, 2009 11:48 pm

Shortstop mix working well for Tigers
Everett, Santiago form effective combo for Detroit

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

09/24/09 7:22 PM ET

CLEVELAND -- The Tigers have seemingly found their mix at shortstop for their stretch run. They're liking the blend they're getting.

When manager Jim Leyland said he would win or lose with his veterans down the stretch, he meant Adam Everett, but he also meant Ramon Santiago, too. While it's no longer an even split -- Everett has started 15 of Detroit's 22 September games -- the division is keeping both of them fresh and seemingly giving the two a second wind for the home stretch.

"All year long, you watch and you try to keep them fresh," Leyland said. "I don't think you can abuse either one of them. You try to keep them fresh. That's really worked out good with our shortstop situation, knock on wood."

Four months ago, Everett and Santiago were earning more attention for their offense than their defense, having fueled Detroit's run production for a good stretch from the bottom of the order. At this point, it's no longer about the bat; Santiago entered Thursday's series finale against the Indians with a .313 (10-for-37) average in September, but no RBIs and only one extra-base hit. Everett is hitting .196 (9-for-46) for the month with five RBIs.

More impressive for them down the stretch has been their defense, a key part of the Tigers' disciplined run in the field for September. Everett hasn't committed an error in 18 games since Aug. 29; Santiago hasn't made an error at any position since the Tigers' last trip to Cleveland on July 31, a 31-game errorless streak.

Not surprisingly, that split will continue down the stretch. While Everett will start Saturday against White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia, Leyland wasn't sure which one to start in Friday's series opener against Jake Peavy.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Shortstop mix working well for Tigers   Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:58 pm

Shortstop tandem works for Tigers
Everett and Santiago consider situation a partnership

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

10/01/09 2:49 PM ET

DETROIT -- Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago say it isn't a competition between them for playing time at shortstop, more like a partnership. So far the partnership is producing almost as well at the plate as the starter they had last year, and better in the field.

After the Tigers used Edgar Renteria last season as the regular shortstop with disappointing results, they signed Everett as a free agent to pair with utility man Santiago. The signing was all about defense, improving the range of an infield that struggled to support its pitchers on ground balls. That improvement has been obvious, but the offensive contribution has been better than expected.

Entering Thursday's series finale against the Twins, Everett and Santiago had combined for a .252 batting average, .649 OPS, seven home runs and 70 RBIs at shortstop, almost entirely from the bottom of the order. By contrast, last year's combination of Renteria and Santiago produced a .269 average, .719 OPS, 14 homers and 67 RBIs.

Manager Jim Leyland said that if someone had said his shortstops would have those numbers this year, "I'd have told you you were smoking something."

The stats are somewhat simplistic, and they don't take into account the hitters around Everett and Santiago over the past couple of seasons. Still, given Detroit's offensive struggles this year, it's somewhat surprising. For the salary difference between Renteria ($9 million) and the Everett/Santiago tandem ($1.85 million, not including bonuses to Everett), it's one instance this year in which the Tigers have gotten more from less.

"They've done a good job," Leyland said after Santiago's two-hit game on Wednesday improved him to 11-for-25 over his past seven games. "It's been a nice combination."

The fact that it hasn't been a contentious combination has played a big role in that. It's a credit to both players that they see a larger goal beyond their playing time.

"We're pulling for each other, because we're a team," Santiago said.

They also know that it isn't a competition. Though the balance has shifted over the course of the season from an even split early on to more time for Everett, then closer to even in recent weeks, there's an understanding that neither player is going to sit for long because of a hot or cold streak.

"Since Day 1 after [Leyland's] decision, I've faced more righties, and [Everett] faces the lefties most of the time," said Santiago. "And it's been like that all year. I don't mind. When I get a chance to play, I try to do my job and try to do the best that I can to help the team win. That's all I care about."

Part of it, too, stems from the fact that both players have relatively laid-back personalities.

"I think it's a testament to the skipper and what he saw in both of us, and not only that, the relationship we have," Everett said. "Santi could go seven days without playing, or play five days in a row, and he's the same guy. He's just that type of guy who just loves to play the game."

It's one situation, Leyland believes, in which the two of them are genuinely better as a tandem than they would be individually.

Of Santiago, Leyland said, "I think he's got a good awareness that he would probably wear down if he played every day. I think he's honest with himself about it. I think it's helped him. And he's very good at second and short."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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