August 1, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Rajai Davis quickly hits stride as Tigers' primary center fielder

Detroit — Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

In his first action as the Tigers’ primary center fielder, Rajai Davis had to track down two 400-plus drives in the second inning, one off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez that he caught at the edge of the warning track, and the next off Drew Stubbs, that took him all the way to the wall.

“I put him to the test in the first couple of innings,” pitcher Justin Verlander said with a laugh. “I had him running around pretty good. Here it is, go get it. He tracked them down pretty well.”

With Austin Jackson traded to Seattle, Davis also stepped into the leadoff spot in the batting order. He responded with two hits, including a two-run single that snapped a scoreless tie in the fifth, and he scored two runs in the Tigers’ 4-2 win over the Rockies.

“I try not to take circumstances into the situation,” Davis said. “I just go out there and focus on what I need to focus on, and that’s getting on base, scoring runs and hitting the ball hard.”

The torch was symbolically passed awkwardly Thursday when Davis was sent out mid-inning to replace Jackson. The trade, which brought David Price to the Tigers, was consummated and Jackson had to be off the field by 4 p.m.

Davis, though, said he didn’t tip off Jackson to the trade when he replaced him.

“They didn’t tell me, so I didn’t tell him,” Davis said. “It was a little awkward. I didn’t want to go out there, to be honest.”

Davis had no trepidation about running out to center field Friday, though. He and newly recalled Ezequiel Carrera will share the center-field position, though manager Brad Ausmus said it would not be strict platoon situation and Davis is expected to get most of the playing time.

“We’re just looking to win,” Davis said. “I am just looking forward to stepping in and helping us win.”

Center field is Davis’ natural position, but he has played primarily in left field in Detroit.

“I came up as a center fielder,” Davis said. “I didn’t play left field until Triple A. So it’s not like it’s something new.

In center you get a little different perspective, different view. You see the ball more true off the bat. In left or right, the ball’s going to curve on you a little more and you’ve got to play that. In center field, you are the captain out there.”

Davis said before the game that the spacious center field in Comerica Park is a plus for him.

“Yeah, I am not worried about running into a wall,” he said. “There’s room to run and that’s a good thing.”

Davis was asked if he felt any extra pressure having to fill Jackson’s shoes.

“I think it’s only pressure if you put it on yourself,” he said. “I am just here to help us win and focus on what I have to do day in and day out — and that’s get on base and score runs.”

Right play?

Ausmus defended rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos’ decision to throw home in the seventh inning which allowed the Rockies’ second run to score.

With runners on first and third and one out, Castellanos backhanded a ground ball by Josh Rutledge. Instead of trying to get the force at second and maybe starting an inning-ending double play, he threw high to home plate and the runner, Brandon Barnes, was safe.

“I don’t think he would have had time from his backhand side to turn a double play,” Ausmus said. “So if he can’t turn a double play, see if you can cut the run down. His throw was a tad up. If it’s down six inches, he’s probably out. So, I think it was the right play.”

Krol regroups

Lost in the Price mania was the demotion of left-handed reliever Ian Krol to Triple A Toledo. It was hardly a surprise, not even to Krol.

“Even Ian feels he was better than he’s shown,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “A little time down there may do him some good.”

In his last 11 appearances, Krol had given up 11 runs and 16 hits in seven innings.

“He needs to pitch,” pitching coach Jeff Jones said. “Obviously, since he came back from the shoulder injury, he’s not thrown very much. We need him to get down there and pitch and get confident again.”

He was replaced on the roster by left-hander Pat McCoy, who recently completed a rehab stint. He had been out since July 6 with a pulled right hamstring. He had four rehab appearances and allowed four runs in 513 innings.

“My last outing went well,” McCoy said “I felt I was right back to where I started. I felt good.”

Around the horn

To backup catcher Bryan Holaday, seeing Jackson coming off the field in the middle of the inning Thursday was deja vu. He was at Toledo last year when the same thing happened to center fielder Avisail Garcia, who was dealt to the White Sox during a Triple A game.

… Rockies second baseman DJ Lemahieu, who played his high school ball at Birmingham Brother Rice, came into the game hitting .336 since June 22, that despite going hitless against the Cubs in the previous series.

Rockies at Tigers

First pitch: 7:08 Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

LHP Tyler Matzek (2-5, 4.39), Rockies: Won his first start June 11, but is 1-5 since with a 4.66 ERA. Not only that, but in his last nine appearances, eight starts, the Rockies are 1-8.

RHP Rick Porcello (12-5, 3.24), Tigers: Still on top of his game with a 4-1 record and 1.95 ERA in seven starts since June 20.

Tigers center fielder Rajai Davis had two hits, including a two-run single in the team's 4-2 victory over the Rockies Friday. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News