Logan’s bunts, speed aid Detroit

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005

CHICAGO — The chess match is on again. This time, however, it’sa different leadoff hitter with the Detroit Tigers.

Nook Logan’s early success with bunt singles has forced areaction from opposing defenses, who have drawn in their infieldsand in some cases rotated their second baseman on contact to try tocounter Logan’s speed.

The countermove belongs to Logan, who slapped a single throughthe infield in each of the first two games of this weekend’s seriesagainst the White Sox.

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“That right there lets them know that I can handle the bat alittle bit than I did in the past,” Logan said Friday after athree-hit game.

“That puts it in the back of their mind that they can’t play mefor the bunt all the time. I can show it, get the defense in andjust slap it by them. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, butmore times than not, if I hit it hard on the ground down eitherline, it has a chance to get by them or they dive and I can leg theplay out.”

Logan (6-2, 180), is a Natchez native who played two years atCopiah-Lincoln Community College. He helped lead the Co-Lin Wolvesto the NJCAA Division II World Series in 2000, starring atshortstop.

A switch-hitter, Logan was drafted by Detroit and made his MajorLeague Baseball debut on July 21, 2004. Currently, he’s batting.385 for the Tigers as a centerfielder.

Detroit’s Alex Sanchez was on a record pace for bunt singlesthrough two months of last season before opposing teams crept intheir corner infielders and dared him to swing the bat. Headjusted, but it dropped him off his hitting pace. He had six buntsingles in about a month’s worth of play after June 6 compared with23 before that. His average, in turn, dropped from .359 throughJune 1 to .325 at the All-Star break.

Though the first month of the season, Logan leads the AmericanLeague with four bunt singles and 14 bunts put in play. The Tigersbelieve he can make the adjustment, not just because of his betterpower and switch-hitting ability but because of his aptitude forlearning.

“The balls that he’s hitting up the middle, he’s centering,”hitting coach Bruce Fields said. “The balls are driven from theinfield. That’s what you want to see. He hasn’t always been able todo that. Now he’s staying behind the ball, he’s putting the barrelon the ball and he’s driving the ball through the infield.

“Nook’s maturing as a player,” said Fields. “He’s better nowthan he was last year. He’s better now than he was probably was twoweeks ago.”

The better Logan becomes at that, as well as working counts, thecloser he’ll be toward becoming a regular leadoff hitter. ManagerAlan Trammell batted Logan atop the order for the secondconsecutive game, moving regular leadoff man Brandon Inge to secondin Carlos Guillen’s absence. Trammell said he’ll return Inge toleadoff and Logan to ninth once Guillen returns, but he can’t denyLogan’s leadoff potential.

“All the qualities you’re looking for in a leadoff hitter,”Trammell said. “He’s a switch-hitter, fast, bunts well.”

In 2004, Logan was named Detroit’s Rookie of the Year. He playedin 47 games, batting .278. He had 10 RBI and 8 stolen bases.