Tigers look to hot-hitting JaCoby Jones for spark

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
JaCoby Jones

Detroit — It had nothing to do with Cameron Maybin’s injured thumb.

In fact, at the time the contract of JaCoby Jones was purchased from Toledo, the Tigers had not yet heard from the surgeon who was reviewing the results of the MRI taken Tuesday morning.

Maybin reaggravated his injured left thumb on a head-first, hand-first slide into second base Monday night. Initial x-rays were negative and the Tigers were calling it a contusion.

“It’s not related,” manager Brad Ausmus said of the Jones move. “It does give us an option in center field if Maybin’s injury is longer-term. But we don’t know what the prognosis is, yet.”

The promotion of Jones, the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect who plays center field and third base, was more about an infusion of offense and energy.

“We’d been talking about different possibilities to get a little life into the offense,” Ausmus said. “Mac (Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon) said Jones had been swinging the bat a lot better lately, though he did have a period of time when he struggled. But Mac raved about his ability to run the bases and play center field.”

Jones, though, was in the lineup Tuesday at third base, essentially replacing Casey McGehee, who was sent back to Toledo. In 21 straight starts at third, filling in for the injured Nick Castellanos, McGehee hit .232 with one RBI.

“I enjoyed having (McGehee) around,” Ausmus said. “He’s a roll-in-the-dirt baseball player. Never complains; does what he’s asked. He was unlucky at times with the bat. He hit the ball hard a lot of times without finding holes or a spot on the grass to land on.

“He played a tremendous third base. We just felt we needed a little more offense and we hope we can get that from Jones.”

Jones, whom the Tigers got from the Pirates last July for Joakim Soria, was hitting .257 in 99 games between Double-A Erie and Toledo. He had seven home runs and 43 RBIs. He was hitting .243 with three homers and 23 RBIs at Toledo.

But he has been hot of late. In his last 13 games at Toledo he hit .340 (18 for 53) with a .386 on-base percentage and .858 OPS, with five doubles and a triple. In the last six, he was hitting .409, with a .480 on-base and 1,071 OPS.

“I’ve been swinging it real good,” Jones said. “I feel good in the box right now, I feel comfortable.”

He played 57 games in center field at Toledo and 22 at third base. He made two errors in center and five at third.

“He’s played primarily in center, and he’s played one out of every four days at third,” Ausmus said. “I honestly haven’t seen him play enough at third to know whether he will be as good as McGehee was.

“Most likely I would use a defensive replacement for him late in games.”

Jones got the start against White Sox right-hander Anthony Ranaudo Tuesday, but Ausmus said he expected to play him mostly against left-handed pitching. Which means Jones will likely start Wednesday against one of the best lefties in the game – Chris Sale.

“I feel ready,” Jones said. “It’s just baseball. I love baseball and I love playing it. It’s just another game of baseball. Just go out and do what I can to help the team win.”

Hardy up

The Tigers bullpen, taxed by 11 innings of work over the last three games, needed a fresh arm Tuesday. Thus, left-hander Blaine Hardy was summoned from Toledo.

The Tigers sent left-handed start Matt Boyd back to Toledo, though that may end up being a paper transaction. Boyd is expected to rejoin the Tigers, and the rotation, after Toledo’s season ends Sept. 5.

Hardy, who has already had two stints with the Tigers this season, was pitching well at Toledo. He’d allowed just six runs in the last 31.1 innings.

Around the horn

…With his save Monday night, closer Francisco Rodriguez moved into fifth place on Major League Baseball’s all-time saves list. His 423rd career save moved him past Billy Wagner. He is one save away from tying John Franco for fourth place. Mariano Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601) and Lee Smith (478) top the list.

…Right-hander Warwick Saupold, who has been pitching at Toledo, was involved in a barroom scuffle early Sunday morning in Toledo. He was charged with simple assault. Two Pirates’ prospects — Gift Ngoepe and Dovydas Neverauskas — were also arrested and charged with assault.