A shadowy figure stepped into the spotlight for a brief moment Thursday, perhaps indicating that Magglio Ordonez may yet play a prominent part in Detroit's postseason ambitions.
Ordonez had his first three extra-base-hit game -- two doubles plus a home run -- of the year in Detroit's 11-8 loss at Kansas City. It couldn't have come at a better time for the Tigers what with the new regular right fielder, Brennan Boesch, sidelined due to a sprained right thumb.
"If I was ever pulling for anybody to contribute down this stretch, it's Magglio," manager Jim Leyland said. "Your heart goes out to that guy. I just can't believe he can't help us."
Boesch has an injury the Tigers say will require corrective surgery when the season ends, and exactly when he'll return and how effective he would be at the plate are issues that will play out over the next couple of weeks.
The loss of Boesch means Leyland has to patch and fill in right field. Recently he's been using a mix-and-match platoon of Don Kelly (bats left), Ryan Raburn (right) and Ordonez (right). The return of Andy Dirks (left) will enhance that mix.
Ordonez saw his playing time diminish to playing only against left-handers with the mid-August acquisition of Delmon Young, which pushed Boesch to right until he got hurt.
But even though his power has nearly vanished (the home run came on a soft changeup), Ordonez remains a threat to drive in runs with singles. He is adept at hitting the ball to right field, drawing a walk and advancing runners.
The speed and outfield range are gone, but the offensive skills remain.
In September, those qualities become important.
Ordonez reached into the past for an RBI single Tuesday that forged a 1-1 tie in the eighth in a game Detroit won in the 10th on a home run by the player who replaced him as a pinch runner, Ramon Santiago.
"I just believe in him," Leyland said. "There's enough left, and he's been such a smart hitter that he's not going to panic. He can make some contributions.
"We're all aware that it's probably not the Magglio of old. But this guy has been a professional. I think it's great what he did tonight. That was a huge, huge hit.
"You've got to do what we're doing -- pick some spots to play him. I don't expect Magglio to contribute like he did over the last five years, but I think Magglio is still capable of doing something -- under pressure in a big situation."
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