Wait, the Tigers have a baserunning consultant? (update)
It was easy to overlook with Don Kelly’s return and the full slate of non-roster Spring Training invites, but thanks to those who pointed it out from the press release: The Tigers also announced the hiring of a new baserunning guru, bringing former Major League coach Jeff Cox to camp as a consultant. He’ll spend Spring Training in big-league camp and pop in on the club during homestands over the course of the regular season, according to the press release.
UPDATE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday afternoon that Cox will focus on individual instruction. They’re bringing him in to work with Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks and others on basestealing. Third-base coach Tom Brookens will continue to handle the team baserunning drills.
“He’s going to work with Jackson and some of the guys that have the potential to steal bases, Dirks, guys like that,” Leyland said of Cox. “Really, Jackson’s the primary guy obviously. We want him to get a little better at that. That’s always been one of [Cox's] strong suits.”
Cox spent four years as the White Sox third-base coach under manager Ozzie Guillen before he took last season off and spent time with family. He was a coach with the Pirates and Marlins in previous stops, including the 2003 World Series championship team in Florida.
It doesn’t forbode any change on the Tigers coaching staff, but it seemingly signifies an emphasis on baserunning for this club going forward. Leyland has mentioned several times over the years that he’d like the Tigers to become a better team on the basepaths, smarter and more aggressive if not actually faster. Prince Fielder’s out at the plate in Game 2 of the World Series might well be the lingering memory from the Tigers’ sweep out of the Fall Classic. Third-base coach Gene Lamont took much of the blame for it and accepted it after the game, but others suggested a better slide from Fielder would’ve gotten him around the tag.
Presumably, Cox won’t work with guys like Fielder, and he definitely won’t be working on base-to-base stuff. Still, it reflects the general emphasis. If they’re looking to turn basestealing into more of an asset for Jackson, it’s just as big.
“We just think that’s a real nice fit,” Leyland said. “That’s always been his expertise. It’s always been. We just hope he can get some of that across to some of our guys.”