DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has said for a while that the recent trend toward aggressive infield shifts would soon have a countertrend. The sight of Victor Martinez and Alex Avila both laying down bunts against the shift Wednesday suggests the counter has arrived.
Both bunts came on the first pitch leading off an inning, when the priority was simply to get on base. Both bunts went foul, though Martinez's second-inning attempt rolled for a while before finally veering to the wrong side of the foul line. Avila's fifth-inning try was clearly foul off the bat. Neither ball had a defender in the neighborhood when it rolled foul.
"I did like to see it, try to make something happen," Ausmus said. "I've said that the shifts have kind of gotten out of hand, and I think you have to counteract them. We haven't actually talked to Victor about it, but we've talked with Alex about it. Alex has even come out and practiced it.
"Shoot, if you're leading off an inning and they're going to give you that, take it. Get on base, because we need baserunners. The only way you can score is if you can get on base."
Neither hitter tried to bunt again, though Avila didn't rule out the possibility of bunting on a second pitch or later.
"A lot of teams, to defend against that for guys that they shift on, they move a guy up," Avila said. "And then after a strike, they move them back."
Torii targeting weekend for full-time return
DETROIT -- Torii Hunter took batting practice on the field Thursday morning, and manager Brad Ausmus wasn't ruling out the possibility of having him available to pinch-hit. His return to full action, however, will wait.
"Hopefully sometime during the weekend," said Hunter, who indicated he was aiming for Saturday or Sunday in Cleveland.
Ausmus has publicly kept his timetable as day to day, but indicated the weekend set against the Indians is the goal.
"He felt better today," Ausmus said after the Tigers' 2-1 win over the Royals on Thursday. "He took batting practice on the field, did some agility drills out in the outfield today, so things are moving in the right direction. We're hoping we can get him back, maybe in a pinch-hit role [Friday], game on Saturday."
Hunter's left hamstring tightened up on him running out of the batter's box on a base hit Monday night. However, he said the injury dates back to Sunday, when he went from first to third on a dropped fly ball in the ninth inning.
For that reason, while Hunter wants to get back as soon as possible, he also wants to ward off making the injury any worse than he already has.
Hunter's patience has been helped by the emergence of J.D. Martinez, who homered three times over the just-finished four-game series against the Royals. Martinez will start in right field as long as Hunter is out, but once Hunter returns, Ausmus has given every indication that Martinez will play as long as he hits.
"I mean, if J.D.'s swinging the bat well, we've gotta continue to put him in there," Ausmus said. "We'll see how Torii is."