Notes: Fan enjoys day as manager
Friend's donation gives 20-year-old a shot as skipper
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cameron Maybin thought he had seen the new Tigers manager somewhere before. Then he realized he had played against him in high school.
Yes, the new Tigers manager.
It was a quiet change at the helm, and it didn't last long, but a bit of offseason charity from Jim Leyland gave 20-year-old Brandan Teague a chance to lead the Tigers for a day. He took a loss in his brief career as a Major League skipper, but he sure felt like a winner.
"You can't put a price on this," Teague said, "just to be in an atmosphere like this, with these players. Everybody watches them on TV, maybe goes to a game. But first-hand, I'm shaking their hands, they're calling me skipper. It's just a great group of ballplayers. They all play the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Technically, the price was $10,000. It went up for bid at a charity dinner in January to benefit the Connecticut Sports Foundation for cancer research. Leyland was invited to take part alongside several Yankee greats and reigning National League Manager of the Year Joe Girardi. When Yankee items went up for bid, Leyland felt like he wanted to contribute something, and he had done something similar earlier in his career.
The winning bid went through Smithfield Foods to Teague, a sophomore infielder on the baseball team at Southern Union State Community College in Wadley, Ala.
"He said if we lose, it's all on me," Teague said Tuesday morning.
After dining with Leyland and Don Zimmer Monday night, Teague got the full appreciation for a manager's job, starting with a 6:30 a.m. arrival at the clubhouse and an introduction to the players later in the morning. He made out the lineup with help from Leyland, who didn't want to start Curtis Granderson after playing him all nine innings on Monday against the Yankees. He hit ground balls to the infielders during batting practice.
Teague brought out the lineup card to the umpiring crew, then sat beside Leyland beside the dugout and got into the role. He slapped players on the back coming off the field between innings. When pitchers finished their innings, Teague met them to ask how they felt.
"He asked if I was done," Maroth said. "I should've been like, 'Aw, give me one more, Skip,' just to mess around with him."
Both Teague and Leyland decided on bunting with runners on and the game tied in the ninth. It didn't bring home the winning run, but Teague at least got an extra inning to manage.
"He was on top of it," Leyland said. "He did good. He did real well. I wish we could've won it for him."
All in all, though, it was still quite an afternoon.
"I'm glad he's getting a kick out of it," Chris Shelton said, "because it's fun to have him around."
How did Maroth feel? Pretty good, which gives Leyland a good feeling he has his fifth starter.
He threw a lot of fastballs and sinkers, mainly because he was behind in counts, but Maroth's three scoreless innings were best marked by Vernon Wells swinging and missing badly out in front of a Maroth changeup.
"He was pretty much looking for a fastball and he came out of his shoes," Maroth said.
Maroth threw three consecutive changeups in that at-bat to Wells, who flew out to center to end Maroth's afternoon. He had more fly ball outs than ground balls, but he felt strong.
Leyland was happy with the performance, which might have ended any lingering speculation that anyone else could be Detroit's fifth starter.
"I think now he's healthy," Leyland said. "I think now it's a matter of building up his arm strength again. I don't think that's even an issue. I think Mike's healthy and as we speak, barring anything unforeseen, something coming back and bothering him or something, he'll be in our rotation."
Still leading off: Granderson's day off meant another day in the leadoff spot for Ivan Rodriguez, who seems to be settling into the role. He had a walk, a flyout and a sacrifice fly in his three appearances, meaning he has still reached base safely in half of his at-bats so far this spring.
"It's different," Rodriguez said, "but at the same time you have to be aggressive and concentrate. Just try to do the same things. Don't try to change too much. Be selective and get ready."
Still hitting: Speaking of not changing much, Placido Polanco looks like he's in regular-season form a week into spring games. With his 3-for-3, two-RBI performance Tuesday, he has reached base safely in his last seven plate appearances.
Polanco entered the day ranked third in the Grapefruit League with seven hits and a .636 batting average, which rose to .714 by day's end.
"He's just a good hitter," Leyland said. "He's one of those guys who moves the ball all over the field and doesn't swing and miss very often. He either makes quick outs or gets hits."
Shelton returns: With Marcus Thames out of town on a personal matter and Sean Casey having played nine innings on Monday, Tuesday was a good day for Shelton's first game of the spring. He missed nearly a week of games with an abdominal strain, but he returned with two hits, including a double pulled to left off Roy Halladay. He scored two of Detroit's four runs.
"It was a good start," Shelton said. "I felt comfortable. I was able to go in and just play. I wasn't hesitant at all and I accomplished what I wanted to."
Clevlen update: Brent Clevlen had a knot in the back of his head from where Yankees pitcher Tyler Clippard's changeup hit him on Monday, but that was the extent of the damage.
"Just a little dizzy," Clevlen said in hindsight Tuesday morning.
Nevertheless, Leyland didn't want to take a chance on playing him Tuesday afternoon.
"I don't want to sound like the grim reaper, but I don't want to take a chance today on something freaky," Leyland said.
Up next: The Tigers welcome the Braves to Joker Marchant Stadium on Wednesday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Jeremy Bonderman will make his second start of the spring opposite Michigan native John Smoltz.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.