Tigers' JaCoby Jones shows commanding presence in center

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Rookie JaCoby Jones, trying to steal the center field job this season, made a terrific diving catch after a long run in short right-center field in the eighth inning of the Tigers 8-0 win against Florida Southern. It looked, at least from the distance of the press box, that he nearly collided with right fielder Alex Presley.

Tigers outfielder JaCoby Jones

“When it was first hit, I knew it was going to be in a spot where it was going to be a tough play,” Jones said. “I got a good jump on it and once I got close — I mean, I saw Presley and he probably could’ve caught it — but I got close enough, I just said I have it.

“He heard me and stopped.”

Important about that play was that Jones, a young player, took charge and didn’t defer to the more seasoned Presley.

“That’s what center fielders do and it was nice to see him do it,” Ausmus said. “He’s the general in the outfield. It doesn’t matter how old you are and how much (big-league) time you have.”

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Said Jones: “It’s my outfield. That’s just how I am. If I think I can catch it, I am going after it.”

Jones thought he had an extra base in the seventh inning. He laced a shot toward right field that was speared and turned into a double play by the first baseman.

“I would have been running for days,” Jones said. “I definitely would have got a triple on that.”

Fulmer starts

The organizational plan is to bring right-hander Michael Fulmer gradually up to full game speed this spring — though if that was ever articulated to him, he wasn’t listening.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said, when asked how many pitches he would throw in his spring debut Friday against the Orioles. “I'll throw until they take me out. I just know I’m ready. I feel good.”

According to pitching coach Rich Dubee, Fulmer will not pitch more than one inning and it’s doubtful he’d be allowed to get to 30 pitches.

Here’s the rest of the rotation:

Saturday vs. Astros: Justin Verlander

Sunday at Mets: Matthew Boyd

Monday vs. Braves: Jordan Zimmermann

Tuesday at Yankees: Daniel Norris

Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez are also fighting for a spot in the rotation. Pelfrey will pitch after Fulmer Friday; Sanchez after Verlander on Saturday.

Good times

Ausmus was praising all the new amenities at Joker Marchant Stadium after the game — the big scoreboard in left center, the party decks in right.

“The Margaritaville Deck in right looks like a nice spot to watch a game,” he said. “The Corona Patio under the scoreboard, that looks like a nice place to watch a game.”

What about the Pepsi Pavilion, he was asked?

“Not as good as the Corona or Margaritaville,” he said, laughing.

Around the horn

Two players from the Tigers minor league camp got into the game Thursday. Shortstop A.J. Simcox played shortstop for the final two innings and brought home a run when he squibbed grounder to the mound was muffed. Outfielder Christin Stewart, the club’s No. 2 prospect, grounded out in one at-bat.

Twitter @cmccosky