DETROIT — It says something when your manager seems like he doesn’t trust you in an elimination game — especially on a team that’s filled with defensive question marks.
Just last Sunday, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had proclaimed Ezequiel Carrera the best of the remaining center fielders, the morning after Rajai Davis injured himself on the second-to-last game of the regular season.
One week later, Carrera’s not in the lineup when Davis can’t go for Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Instead, Don Kelly’s starting in center.
“Gut instinct, decided to go with Donnie. Defensively, they’re about the same,” Ausmus said before the win-or-go-home game. “Zeke probably runs a little bit better. Donnie, obviously, has a little more experience.”
Carrera does have far better speed. But other than the spectacular, highlight-reel catch in New York shortly after the trade deadline dealings brought him the big leagues, there have been more poor plays than good ones.
See: The single that got dumped in front of him in Game 2, chasing starter Justin Verlander from the game.
That’s one where you’d hope your center fielder gets a better jump, and makes a play.
Ausmus chose to play Carrera in the final game of the regular season, in part based on a ‘gut feeling’ that he’d been swinging the bat well. But, at the time, he still endorsed his defensive capabilities.
“In terms of from a defensive standpoint, it would probably be Carrera, Kelly first, but Tyler (Collins) could play center. Out of the three, Carrera’s probably the better center fielder out of all of them. Then Kelly, and Tyler,” Ausmus said. “All three of them are capable of playing it.”
Like Davis, Carrera’s fleetness of foot can be a bonus offensively — he finished with seven steals in the regular season, fifth-most on the team, despite playing just 45 games with the Tigers — but his defense has been spotty. Lots of bad jumps, poor routes.
Sitting him Sunday is merely an endorsement of that reality.