DETROIT -- The next step in the development of Orioles rookie Lou Montanez means taking a few strides to his left.

Montanez got his first Major League start in center field on Friday night against the Tigers after four starts in left field.

"It's just another step of them throwing me out there and seeing what my limits are, what I can do to help the ballclub," said Montanez, who was promoted from Double-A Bowie on Aug. 5. "It's definitely a sign that they're showing confidence in me."

Veteran Jay Payton had started every game in center since Adam Jones went on the disabled list on Aug. 5 with a fractured left foot. Orioles manager Dave Trembley wanted to keep Montanez's hot bat in the lineup after Thursday's 3-for-5 line, but regular left fielder Luke Scott had already sat twice in the Cleveland series. So, he gave Payton a day off, partly to test Montanez.

"I thought this was an opportunity to put Montanez in out there in center field and see what he can do," Trembley said. "That was my thought process."

Montanez, who was drafted as a shortstop by the Cubs with the third overall pick eight years ago, does have some center field experience. He said he played about 10 games there at Bowie.

"It's a little different, but I have been working with Jay [Payton] and with [first base and outfield coach John] Shelby," Montanez said. "I knew it was kind of coming because they told me to shag fly balls in both spots."

He also has roamed Comerica Park in the past, at the All-Star Futures Game in 2005.

"I'm not saying I know this park, but at least I've been here before," he said. "I can't say that much about any parks."

Montanez is hitting .474 (9-for-19) in his first big league stint, and he's earning some early praise from Trembley. The manager wanted Montanez to swing away in a possible sacrifice bunt situation during Thursday night's eight-run eighth inning. Montanez rewarded his skipper by smacking a go-ahead double. He's learning quickly.

"For a guy who's never been here before, he's shown a lot of patience at the plate, he's not chasing bad pitches," Trembley said. "A lot of young guys, when they come up here, they try to do so much so quickly that they forget what brought them to the dance, so to speak.

"He's shown a very good approach at the plate. He's used the other side of the field very well. He's been productive, but he's been humble. I think those two things are important, the latter probably more so. You have to understand your place."