Austin Jackson to DL, Avisail Garcia called up
What was originally hoped to be a day off for Austin Jackson is going to last at least the next couple weeks. The Tigers placed their leadoff man and defensive centerpiece on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled
right left hamstring.
The move comes after Jackson sat out Sunday’s game against Cleveland. It was his second game off in just over a week, but unlike last time, he did not enter the game late as a defensive replacement, not even with a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Nor did he pinch-hit once the Tigers fell behind in the 10th.
That was the first sign of a serious issue.
“He can go,” Leyland said before the game, “but it’s hard for him to really burn into that extra gear. So I’m just giving him a day off for precautionary reasons.”
Jackson’s loss creates a major void atop Detroit’s order, though his hamstring might have been wearing on him lately. He was among the league’s leading hitters through the 2 1/2 weeks, batting .393 (24-for-61) before falling into an 0-for-26 slump at the end of the Tigers’ West Coast trip last month. He’s batting .231 (9-for-39) with eight runs scored, three doubles and 12 strikeouts so far in May.
Don Kelly started in center for the two games Jackson was on the bench. With Jackson out for a longer stretch, though, the Tigers appear to have options. Avisail Garcia’s arrival from Triple-A Toledo opens up a few of them.
Andy Dirks, who batted leadoff when Jackson didn’t play, has experience in center and could take over the role for a spell. Garcia can play center, too, having started 44 games there last summer at Double-A Erie. Garcia’s more natural role, however, is in the corners.
Torii Hunter, of course, was a Gold Glove center fielder for a decade with the Twins and Angels. However, the 37-year-old has played only one game in center since 2011.
Whatever the Tigers decide, Garcia has the potential to bring an offensive infusion. After opening the season on the disabled list with a severely bruised right heel that cost him over a month, Garcia was optioned to Triple-A Toledo at the end of April and immediately hit up a storm for the Mud Hens. He’s 16-for-37 (.432) over eight games with a double, home run and four RBIs.
Garcia, who turns 22 years old next month, rejoins the Tigers in the regular season for his first time since last September, when he played an underrated role to Detroit’s late-season charge to the AL Central title. He batted 15-for-47 (.319) down the stretch in the regular season with three RBIs, then went 6-for-23 with a double and four RBIs in the Tigers’ postseason run to the World Series.
He came to Spring Training with a chance to compete for a spot on Detroit’s Opening Day roster, but was going to have to win a regular role in the outfield to do so, according to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. Those chances grew longer well before he bruised his heel lunging for first base on an infield grounder in a Spring Training game in mid-March.