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Tigers' JaCoby Jones still smiling after magical debut

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
JaCoby Jones

Detroit — When the night was over, when his mom had finally stopped jumping up and down, JaCoby Jones had precisely zero issues falling asleep.

It was around 1:30 a.m. when his head finally hit the pillow early Wednesday morning.

It wouldn't have been a shocker if he was zonked out by 1:31.

"That," said Jones, with a smile, "was probably the best sleep I've had in my whole life."

It's been quite the whirlwind for Jones these last 48 hours, from getting a surprise call-up to The Show, to being in the lineup his first day in The Show, to collecting his first two hits and first two RBIs, all in his major-league debut.

With the RBI double and RBI single, Jones helped the Tigers to an 8-4 comeback victory over the White Sox at Comerica Park on Tuesday night.

He was the first Tiger to have at least two hits and two RBIs in his major-league debut since Hank Reibe on Aug. 26, 1942.

"It was incredible," said Jones, wearing a T-shirt and shorts in the clubhouse Wednesday morning, ahead of his second career start.

"Just something I'll never be able to describe, just one of the best feelings of my life ... amazing, exciting, fun."

Jones, 24, acquired from the Pirates last July in the Joakim Soria deal, was to start at center field Wednesday, after starting at third base Tuesday.

Center field was the position of choice for the Tigers when they traded for him last summer, though he continued to get the occasional reps at third as he made his way up the Tigers' food chain this season, from Double A to Triple A.

He handled four chances without issue at third base Tuesday, not enough for manager Brad Ausmus to pass any serious judgment, but enough for him to believe Jones can handle the position without issue in the continued absence of Nick Castellanos.

"He was fine over there," Ausmus said. "I didn't really get enough good looks to tell you if he's a Gold Glove-caliber defender or not."

At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Jones is mighty athletic — and he'd impress often in the field at Erie and Toledo.

He'd also have the occasional moments where he wouldn't look nearly as polished.

That's OK. He's with the Tigers in a playoff race because of his bat.

The Tigers weren't sure he'd be up this season, not after he started the year with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a drug of abuse. When he returned to the diamond in Erie, he was humbled — and then hot as could be, especially on offense. He started hot after his promotion to Toledo, too, before going through a lengthy slump that also included a benching by manager Lloyd McClendon for not hustling out a popup.

Asked about that incident recently, McClendon brushed it off, and called Jones a joy, "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," and eager to learn and get better.

The much-more-seasoned Casey McGehee had his moments as Castellanos' replacement, but in the end had just one RBI. Jones doubled that in his first four at-bats, to the delight of his family, who rushed to make the trip from Mississippi to Detroit to see Jones' debut. Mom stole the show, with her FSD interview and her celebrations after hits No. 1 and 2.

"She's not a shy person at all," said Jones, noting Mary Jones was the one who decided to capitalize the "C" in JaCoby's first name — fearing, otherwise, kids might call him JAKE-oby. JaCoby admitted spending hours and hours as a kid practicing his autograph with the upper-case "C," and, good news Tigers fans, he's got it done now.

"She's definitely gonna let everybody know she's proud of her son.

"I'm glad they could be here."