Tigers' lineup finally back at full strength

Tigers' lineup finally back at full strength

DETROIT -- The lineup card posted on the door of the Tigers' clubhouse on Wednesday looked unusual. Separately, the names looked familiar. They just hadn't been seen together in order in a while. 

With Nick Castellanos' return to the starting lineup at third base, the Tigers were finally back at full strength with their regular position players. Manager Brad Ausmus wrote out a starting lineup with his regulars for just the 11th time this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and the first time since June 11. 

"I didn't write it," Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon. "I texted it." 

The list of injuries connects like a puzzle. Castellanos made his first start since Aug. 6, when he fractured his left hand on an inside pitch. J.D. Martinez had returned to the lineup on Aug. 4, the day Cameron Maybin's sprained thumb began sidelining him for nearly three weeks. 

Martinez missed all of July and most of June. Maybin opened the season on the disabled list before making his first start on May 16. A week later, Justin Upton missed four games with left quad tightness. Add in James McCann's ankle injury in April, and the window with which Ausmus had his full roster of regulars at his disposal basically encompasses parts of May and a week or so in June. 

Between the injuries and roster moves, Ausmus has used 97 combinations of position players in his lineups. That ranks around the middle of the pack, ninth out of 15 American League clubs, but only Toronto and Texas have more wins with more lineup combinations. 

Put it another way: With four games left to play, Ausmus has used more combinations than in either of his previous two seasons as Tigers manager. 

"You assume there's going to be injuries," Ausmus said. "I've said it before: I think it's more surprising that, at this point now, there's four rookies in the rotation. For a good chunk of the season, there were three rookies in the rotation. To me, that's more surprising than anything else." 

Even though it had been a while, Wednesday's starting nine is the most common the Tigers have used this season. The next most common lineup has Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate and Anthony Gose in center, a combination that was featured in 10 games early in the season while Maybin and McCann were both on the DL. 

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.