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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2008

Tigers GM makes decision on Jones

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters Sunday there would be no immediate roster moves made to address the team's slow start, only lineup changes.

When Leyland arrived yesterday at Comerica Park for the first of his team's four-game series against the Boston Red Sox, he learned the Tigers were purchasing the contract of Toledo outfielder Matt Joyce and designating left fielder Jacque Jones for assignment.

"It was told to me today when I came in," said an agitated Leyland, who often barked "next question" after answering the previous one.

"[Tigers general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] came down, we discussed it a little bit, and made the move. This move was not made [Sunday]. You can take that to the bank."

Leyland said he had discussions with Jones and Marcus Thames Sunday, but it wasn't about a possible roster move. It was about playing some as the Tigers' designated hitter so Gary Sheffield could play left field.

Jones, acquired last November in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Omar Infante, batted .165 with a homer and five RBIs in 24 games. He had one hit in his last 29 at-bats.

Joyce, 23, who made his major league debut last night, batted .299 with five homers and 21 RBIs for the Hens. He hit .389 in his last 10 games.

Both Joyce and Jones hit left-handed, and the Tigers need more (productive) lefties in the lineup.

Dombrowski said a "young, hungry guy" like Joyce could be good for the Tigers.

"We just think right now that [Joyce] makes us a better ball club," Dombrowski said.

The Tigers were swept in a three-game series by Minnesota over the weekend and returned from a six-game road trip in last place in the American League Central with a 14-18 record.

Leyland wanted to make it clear before yesterday's game that Jones was not the reason the Tigers - picked by many to reach the World Series - have stumbled out of the gate.

"Has he gotten off to a bad start? Yes he has," Leyland said. "But that is totally unfair. He's been nothing but a class individual. In no way shape or form is anybody pointing fingers at Jacque Jones.

"Jacque Jones is kind of paying the price for our club not performing. That's what I feel worst about."

The Tigers have 10 days to trade or release Jones.

Dombrowski said there were no more roster moves planned.

ANOTHER BIG MOVE: Leyland played Sheffield in left field last night and dropped him from third to sixth in the batting order, hoping the moves would give the struggling nine-time all-star a boost.

Sheffield batted .185 with two homers and five RBIs in 23 games as the DH, and voiced his desire to play the field recently to Leyland, Dombrowski and first base coach Andy Van Slyke.

"I'm a guy who likes to be in the middle of the action," Sheffield said. "I was noticing faces in the stands, the popcorn vendors, things I've never noticed before."

Sheffield has been nursing a surgically repaired right shoulder and has received two cortisone shots already this season. He hadn't played the outfield since last July, when he injured his shoulder in a collision with second baseman Placido

Polanco playing right field.

Sheffield said he's been thinking about a return to the outfield since he "started seeing what DHing is all about, and it's not me."

"He has his at-bat, he's struggling, he starts drifting instead of having to go out to play," Leyland said.

With Sheffield in left, Magglio Ordonez was the DH last night. Leyland said Ordonez and Sheffield would both DH. Other candidates include Thames, Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera.

MORE ORDER: Leyland switched Sheffield in the batting order with Guillen, who has hit sixth for most of the year. Edgar Renteria hit eighth and Ivan

Rodriguez ninth for the first time this season.

Leyland said he would not move Curtis Granderson and

Polanco from the first and second spots, respectively.

"We've got as good a one-two punch as anybody in baseball, and I'm not going to mess with that," Leyland said.

JOB SECURITY: Leyland twice mentioned GMs firing the managers yesterday when discussing the evolution of a struggling team trying to right its ship.

He wasn't talking about himself, though.

"I'm just using that as an example because that's the way this stuff works," Leyland said. "At some point, which I hope is a long way off, if things don't get going they change managers. But hopefully that's down the road. I don't expect it to be next week."



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