Kansas City, Mo. — The last two days, Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer and strength and conditioning coach Chris Walter have been out in left field before the game going through an extensive, and viewing it from afar, exhausting resistance training routine.
Using bands, Mercer pulls Walter across the outfield, stepping, lunging, back and forth.
“We’re taking a different approach to this,” said Mercer, who is on his second stint on the injured list with a strained right quad. “We are using the program the specialist in Dallas gave us and so far it’s working.”
Mercer went to Dallas on June 3 to be examined by Dr. Daniel E. Cooper, the head of the Dallas Cowboys’ medical staff.
“It’s a reform-type program where you use the resistance and you are firing, not necessarily going into the weight room and firing it up,” he said. “But you go out there and the resistance training causes the quad to fire.
“All it’s going to do is build it up. We’re just taking a different approach and so far it’s responding really well.”
Mercer has only played in six games since April 13 and has been out since May 7. As good as he feels now, though, there has been no talk of going back on a rehab assignment.
“Honesty, I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Mercer said. “I just want to continue to build this up. We haven’t even started to run full speed yet. We have a plan in place, we’re executing it and so far we have checked off every box.
“I just want to stick with that all the way. We’re going day-by-day and right now every day has been good. And that’s been so positive, just for my psyche, too.
"That’s the biggest thing.”
Jones leading off
A couple of days ago, manager Ron Gardenhire playfully chided the media about wanting him to move the hot-hitting JaCoby Jones up higher in the batting order.
Well, with Niko Goodrum out with a right knee bruise, he put Jones into the lead-off spot Wednesday.
“You guys are writing it all the time,” he said. “I might as well do it.”
Truth be told, nobody who covers the team on a daily basis has written about it or suggested it. But, it’s not a bad idea. Jones is one of the hottest hitters in the American League, hitting .421 with a .468 on-base percentage and a .772 OPS since May 24.
“He’s swinging it really good right now, you just hope he doesn’t get out of whack trying to be a lead-off man,” Gardenhire said. “We just put him up there because he’s swinging it good. Just don’t get out of whack trying to take pitches and things like that.
“Just be what you’ve been. You’ve been pretty good.”
Brandon Dixon has hit himself into a regular spot in the Tigers lineup, and on Thursday, he’s going back to the scene of one of his most cherished memories. It was at TD Ameritrade Field in Omaha, in 2012, that he celebrated a College World Series championship with his Arizona teammates.
“It was the best week and a half, two weeks of my life, with some of my best friends,” he said. “Some of my best memories in baseball.”
Dixon knocked in the go-ahead run late in the championship game against South Carolina.
“It was really cool to have a big moment like that, but just the celebration and being with all the guys you worked so hard with to accomplish something like that, that’s the main thing,” he said.
Making the last out for South Carolina that year was Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner, who had to walk past the Arizona dog pile on his way back to the dugout.
“Yeah, I bring it up now and then,” Dixon said. “It’s still as sore subject for him. That was my first encounter with him. I remember him flying out to right. It’s a good memory for me; not so good for him.”
Around the horn
Jordan Zimmermann (UCL strain) is scheduled to make a rehab start at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.
… Outfielder Victor Reyes, the reigning International League player of the week, will be activated Thursday for the game in Omaha. He will serve as the 26th man, which Major League Baseball allows for special-event games like this. Reyes is hitting .282 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs at Toledo.
Tigers at Royals
First pitch: 8:05 p.m. Thursday, TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
LHP Matthew Boyd (5-4, 3.08), Tigers: He’s allowed three earned runs or less in 13 of his 14 starts. He leads the AL with a 7-1 strikeout-to-walk rate and 1.6 walks per nine. He is third in WAR (3.3), fifth in strikeouts (105) and ninth in ERA (3.08). All-Star worthy.
RHP Homer Bailey (4-6, 5.90), Royals: He beat the Tigers back on May 4 at Comerica, allowing two runs over six innings. But he didn’t get past the fifth inning in his next five starts before going six again against the White Sox his last time out. His splitter is his out pitch, getting a 41 percent whiff rate with it.