Detroit — Because there were a couple of misplays in center field Tuesday night, the knee-jerk reaction is that the Tigers’ made a mistake by sending their best defensive center fielder — JaCoby Jones — back to Triple-A Toledo.
The knee-jerk reaction, almost by definition, is based on a very narrow view of the situation, as manager Brad Ausmus explained after the 5-3 loss Tuesday.
He was asked why he didn’t consider keeping Jones up just for his defense.
“That sounds like a great idea, unless he really struggles offensively, and then you destroy the kid’s confidence,” he said. “It’s a balance. You definitely want the best team possible at the major-league level, but we also have a guy in JaCoby Jones that we think could be a good player in the long term.
“So do you risk destroying his confidence in the near-term, and thus changing the career path of a young, talented player?”
Jones, by all accounts, is a mentally strong person and player. But his offensive woes at the big-league level were not abating. He has seven hits in 57 plate appearances, hitting .137 with an untenable 45.6 percent strikeout rate.
He hasn’t had the same issues at Triple-A, where he’s hitting .265 with a .719 OPS and a 20 percent strikeout rate. The Tigers’ organization, collectively, believe he has it in him to be a productive big-league hitter, but the consensus is he needs more time in Triple-A.
“I think it’s probably best that he go down and learn himself, work on his game, and develop,” Ausmus said. “Rather than throw him in the fire here, and have him struggle at the Major-League level.”
Before he was sent back, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon worked with Jones to develop a more useful two-strike approach. He had him shortening up on the bat and cutting down his swing — things that were covered in spring training, too.
“He just needs to go play,” Ausmus said. “There is no secret there.”
Ausmus said Justin Verlander, who left his last start with a tight right groin, will throw his bullpen session Thursday. That should go a long way in determining if he can make his next scheduled start Saturday in Boston.
“He said it’s been feeling progressively better,” Ausmus said. “Tomorrow will be a good indicator of how he feels. And Friday might be a better indicator.”
Ausmus said the club was going on the assumption that Verlander will make his next start. If not, though, if he has to go on the disabled list, he likely would be replaced by left-hander Matthew Boyd.
As it stands, Saturday would be Boyd’s next starting day.
Get past it
Victor Martinez, who had another towering, well-struck fly ball swallowed up by the vast right-center field Tuesday at Comerica Park, could not hide his frustration after the game.
“I’m not Miggy, I’m not J-Up and I’m not J.D. (Martinez),” he said. “It is what it is. I hit the ball pretty decent and it got caught, like a lot of balls I hit that way. That’s why I’m a different hitter here (at Comerica Park).
“I’m tired of getting out and hearing, ‘Good swing, good swing.’ Like I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, good swings don’t get you paid and good swings don’t get the fans happy.”
The spacious home park has frustrated a lot of Tigers hitters, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos and both Martinezes more than most. Ausmus sympathized, to a point.
“There is a fine line between being understanding and making them understand nothing is going to change,” he said. “You don’t want it to affect them. You certainly don’t want it to affect their at-bats, but you understand their frustration at times.
“The park dimensions are what they are. They are not changing. You’ve got to get past it.”
Around the horn
Catcher James McCann, who was scheduled to make his final rehab start Wednesday in Toledo, is expected to be activated off the disabled list (lacerated hand) before the Tigers game in Boston on Friday.