Slumping Jackson to sit Sunday
The question came up to manager Jim Leyland after Saturday’s loss: Is Austin Jackson, who went 0-for-4, pressing?
Leyland did not have to pause to think about the answer.
“I would say so,” Leyland said.
Thus, Jackson is going to get Sunday off, his first game out of the starting lineup since the season began a week and a half ago. Don Kelly will most likely get the start in his place.
Victor Martinez is the only other Tiger to have started every game so far this season, and all but two of those have been at designated hitter.
Jackson, of course, plays a more demanding position in center field. With a mix of Magglio Ordonez, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn rotating in the corner spots most games, Jackson has had a good amount of territory to cover.
Jackson, also, of course, bats leadoff, which has demands of its own. Setting the table for a lineup that needs to score runs more consistently, it’s moreso.
Before the game, Leyland lectured that seven games is a short amount of time to make judgments.
“I think everybody has a tendency to put way too much emphasis, good or bad, [on results] early in the season, after 6-7 games,” Leyland said. “If a guy’s 0-for-6, people are panicking. If a guy’s 1-for-9, people are panicking. It’s nine at-bats. If a guy’s 5-for-9, people go, ‘Oh, man.’ We’ve played seven games. It is what it is.”
That was before Saturday’s game. After the game, Leyland was cautious about not reading too much into his decision, but also indicated these are real struggles for Jackson.
“He never gets too high or too low. But, at the major league level, he hasn’t really gone through this just yet, either. You have to watch it. I’m probably going to get him out of there tomorrow.”
Leyland was asked if he thinks it’s mechanical.
“I think people have a tendency to think that every time you’re not hitting, you’re doing something mechanically wrong. That’s not always necessarily true,” Leyland said. “Sometimes, you’re just not staying on the ball. He’s gone through a little bit of a streak where he’s swinging at balls and taking strikes. So I think he’s been caught in between just a little bit. And that’s usually a telltale sign of a little slump.
“But he’ll come out of it. He’s just not in a real good groove right now, where he’s feeling really good, getting the foot down, boom, then the timing. But he’ll get that. He’ll be fine.”
Jackson has not had a ton of ugly at-bats. When he entered Tuesday’s off-day batting .200, he led all major league hitters in pitches seen. He had a lot of deep at-bats, but not the results he wanted. He led the American League in strikeouts, and a lot of them came on 2-2 and 3-2 pitches. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon liked the at-bats part, and both he and Jackson felt he was seeing the ball well.
He has had some quicker outs the last few days. He ran the count full before taking a called third strike in the first inning Saturday, but then struck out quickly in the eighth inning with runners on first and second. He also hit into a double play on a 1-0 pitch Friday.
Jackson ended Saturday batting 6-for-34 with 13 strikeouts, having struck out at least once in every game so far this season. When he gets on base, though, he tends to get around and get home. He has reached base safely nine times and scored five runs. But four of those runs came in the season-opening weekend at Yankee Stadium.