Tigers still mulling options to replace JaCoby Jones in center field

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Mikie Mahtook

Lakeland, Fla. – JaCoby Jones was scrolling through his phone in front of his locker Sunday morning, in street clothes with a sling around his injured left shoulder.

"It's just a good thing it's not my right arm," he said. "It would be much harder. It's tough, going through the whole camp and then get hurt the last couple of days. It's unfortunate, but it happens. 

"Injuries are part of the game. Just trying to stay positive."

Jones' injury occurred in the sixth inning Saturday when he landed hard on his left shoulder. 

"He separated his AC joint a little bit," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You just spread it a little and there you have it. He's sore and he's going to be sore. As far as a timetable, everybody is different.

"He's going on the injured list and he's going to need some time. Could be two weeks, couple be three, who knows?"

Jones sprained the same joint in the same shoulder last season. He did it nearly making a sensational diving catch in right-center field on the day the Tigers honored Hall of Famers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

That injury kept him out a week. The Tigers are expected this one to take longer to heal.

In the meantime, while general manager Al Avila and his staff search for potential replacements outside the organization, Gardenhire is mulling in-house candidates.

In the short-term, Mikie Mahtook, who started in center field Sunday, and Niko Goodrum are going to share center field duties. Mahtook smashed his third home run of the spring, a cannonading blast that sailed beyond both the berm and patio deck in left field.

Dustin Peterson, who was reassigned to minor-league camp earlier this week, has a chance to be on the Opening Day roster.

Gardenhire said he will start Peterson in center field an exhibition game against the Tigers top prospects on Monday.  

"I have to look at him," Gardenhire said.

Peterson, who played first base and had a single, double and two RBIs Sunday, has only played two games in center – back in Double-A in 2016. 

"Outside the world of the Detroit Tigers, there are people available, too," Gardenhire said. "There really are. But we hope to do it in-house. It's kind of an important thing when you lose your center fielder, a guy we were really counting on to start the season."