July 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Austin Jackson appears to be back where he belongs at leadoff

Detroit — Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson appears to be getting comfortable with his new — or is it his old — spot in the lineup.

After a slow start back at leadoff — 0-for-9 in his first two games — Jackson has bounced back, hitting .386 (22-of-57) in his last 14 games.

He went 2-for-3 in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Indians, including a single, double and a walk. During that span, he’s had at least one hit in 11 of 14 games and his on-base percentage is .429.

In July, he’s raised his average 26 points to .264.

“It really wasn’t something that was hard for me to do, just because I’ve been in that position before and it’s something about getting the offense started,” said Jackson, who scored the game’s first run Sunday after his leadoff double.

“You have a different mindset and you’re more aggressive. It’s a mental thing that I really enjoy.”

On July 2 against the Athletics, he started the string with a 3-for-5 day, including a double and an RBI. That’s coincided with solid hitting by J.D. Martinez in the No. 5 spot and Torii Hunter moving to sixth.

“It’s tough, the leadoff spot,” Hunter said. “If you go look at the numbers since 2010, he’s leading all baseball with 400-plus runs scored and his average is top five.

“He’s not a 5-hole hitter; he’s definitely a leadoff guy.

“Of course, he struggled in the playoffs and we had to move him to 7-8-9. Because he struggled in the playoffs, people don’t believe he can lead off.”

With the thought being that perhaps Jackson was better suited to the middle of the order, and with the additions of speedy Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler this year, Jackson was slotted in between fifth and seventh for most of the first half.

But on July 1, Jackson was in the midst of one of his worst slumps of the season, zero for his last 15 at-bats. His batting average had dipped to .238 and his struggles had become such a concern that manager Brad Ausmus was looking for any solution to get him out of the hitting doldrums.

“The idea behind moving him was that he had been there for the previous few years. Despite the fact that during the playoffs they dropped him down,” Ausmus said. “He started off hot and cooled off and we were just trying to search for a way to get him going and that’s what we came up with — just put him back in a spot that he’s comfortable in.”

After Jackson’s recent hot hitting, Ausmus is happy with the results and isn’t looking to move him around anymore.

“He’s been giving us consistently good at-bats. I don’t know that he’s done anything specific mechanically,” Ausmus said. “Generally speaking, if a guy is swinging the bat well, I want to stay away from him.

“I don’t know if he just got hot or he was put in the No. 1 spot, got comfortable and got hot, but he’s probably going to be there again tomorrow.”


Austin Jackson is hitting .386 (22-of-57) in his last 14 games. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News