Lakeland, Fla. — Where to hit Austin Jackson?
That will be an ongoing question this spring.
It won’t be fifth, which is where Jackson hit Tuesday in the victory over Florida Southern College.
It won’t be sixth, which is where Jackson had two hits in a 5-2 victory over the Braves Thursday in the Tigers home opener at Joker Marchant Stadium.
It won’t be fourth, either, which is the spot Jackson’s already been written into for Friday’s split-squad game against the Phillies.
So what gives, manager Brad Ausmus, with all the strange assignments for Jackson, who has led off for all but a few games of his career?
“The plan is, when he’s in there, to try him in a few different spots,” Ausmus said. “But let’s put it this way: If we decide to hit him leadoff, it’s not as if he’s never done it before.”
This could be the start of a weaning of Jackson away from hitting leadoff, one through which he gets accustomed to hitting elsewhere.
Or it could just be that “it’s difficult to do anything in particular when you have some guys playing and some guys not playing,” Ausmus said. “Really, right now, it’s more about playing time and getting at-bats.”
Even if they are in strange places.
Strange for Jackson, anyway.
Four pitches and Sanchez out
Spring training has ended early, and abruptly, for right-hander Eduardo Sanchez, a non-roster invitee to camp.
Sanchez threw four pitches before leaving Wednesday’s game, and was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right elbow. He’ll be out an extended amount of time.
Sanchez, who turned 25 on Feb. 16, came to camp with major league credentials. In 2011, he was 3-1 with five saves and 1.80 ERA in 26 appearances for the Cardinals, but has made only 21 appearances since, including the four he made last year for the Cubs, who picked him up off waivers.
He was regarded as a long shot to win a bullpen spot, more realistically being targeted for Toledo.
'The extra 90 feet'
There’s no denying newcomer Rajai Davis has exciting speed. The fact it’s combined with aggressiveness could prove infectious for other Tigers runners.
“His speed and aggressiveness will energize,” Ausmus said. “It can have that effect.”
Speed is not a requirement, though.
“Quite frankly, the way Victor Martinez ran the bases (Wednesday) — and he’s the opposite of Davis when it comes to speed — can also have an effect,” Ausmus said.
“Victor was very aware of what was going on around him, and advanced 90 feet twice. That’s huge. That’s what we have been talking about — gaining the extra 90 feet.”