Ex-Tiger Austin Jackson is right at home in visitors’ clubhouse

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit — He was wearing a Seattle Mariners T-shirt.

When he talked about “we,” he didn’t mean the Tigers.

And when he turned for the visitors’ clubhouse after arriving at Comerica Park, he didn’t take a misstep toward the Tigers clubhouse instead. He said he didn’t even look that way.

How long has it taken Austin Jackson to make the transition from one team to another — from the Tigers to the Seattle Mariners, who are in town for a three-game series?

Two weeks.

Less than that, in fact, if Jackson felt as comfortable about the switch sooner than it appeared he did on Friday.

“The toughest thing,” he said, “has been getting my body adjusted to the time change. It was a little rough trying to catch up on some sleep.

“But other than that, it’s been great. The team was pumped up to have me — and has welcomed me with open arms. That put me at ease a lot.”

Jackson received a warm, standing ovation from the appreciative crowd when he stepped to the plate to lead off the game. But that was the biggest highlight for him this night.

He went hitless in five at-bats, bounced into a bases-loaded double play that scored a run, got caught stealing and watched a Miguel Cabrera missile sail over his head in center field, the same center field he’s patrolled the past five years.

It’s not that Jackson didn’t like his time in Detroit or that it didn’t mean anything to him. It’s just that he’s moved on — because in baseball, that’s what you have to do as fast as you can.

You can’t be up ts the plate facing fastballs while thinking, “I sure miss the Tigers,”

Once the Tigers were in his rear-view mirror, Jackson spent no time looking back. He said leaving the Tigers was “a little sad,” which probably meant “a lot sad” at the time.

But he’s a Mariner now.

Known to be somewhat of a clubhouse clown because of spot-on impersonations of teammates, he’s taken that talent west.

“I don’t have these guys down yet,” he said, that big grin of his widening. “But I’m working on it — and I’ll get there. You know I will.”

So get ready, Mariners. He’s good at mimicking. And pitchers are fair game as well.

“He did a great (Jose) Valverde,” Bryan Holaday said. “He was good at a lot of them, but that was his best. He had all the mannerisms.”

What has helped in the transition for Jackson is that Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers, has made the same Detroit-Seattle transition as manager.

Going to a club where you already know the manager, and where you already know the manager thinks highly of you, made it easier to leave the Tigers.

Most definitely,” Jackson said of that being a factor. “I had a good connection with him as my hitting coach.

“It’s a good feeling to be back with him.”

When the Mariners landed Jackson on July 31 as part of the three-team deal that brought David Price to Detroit, they knew what they were getting because of McClendon’s first-hand knowledge of what they were getting.

“Anytime you go to a new club there’s a transitional period,” McClendon said. “But he’s fitting in. He’s played pretty darn good center field and is starting to swing the bat the way he’s capable of swinging.”

“Being right-handed, he gives us more balance in the lineup. Austin is a quality baseball player, and always has been a guy with a great sense of humor, plus an easy way of fitting in. It’s no different in our clubhouse. His teammates have taken to him, and he’s taken to his teammates.”

But it can’t be said the move is 100-percent complete because guess what Jackson is doing this weekend when he isn’t at Comerica Park?

He’s packing.

You don’t play for a club for nearly five years without accumulating memories — and memorabilia.

“I went back to my old place when I got here and got started,” he said.

“Hopefully I can get it all packed up before we leave.”

When Jackson leads off for the Tigers tonight, he’ll do so against David Price, who’ll be wearing Jackson’s old No. 14.

That will mean something, won’t it?

“Not really,” Jackson said. “It’s just a number. I wore it for some years, but it’s just a number.”

Meaning what?

Meaning this: Jackson enjoyed being a Tiger but as he said of his new team, “I’ve pretty much settled in here.”

And it didn’t take long.