Jackson set to learn Comerica's quirks
Center fielder knows it'll be a learning process
DETROIT -- Comerica Park's outfield has proven to be a challenge for skilled defensive outfielders ranging from Curtis Granderson to Torii Hunter. Now it's Austin Jackson's turn to find out what it's about.
Jackson proved over the course of a windy Spring Training in Florida that he can handle a Major League center field, taking a true route to fly balls and line drives almost every time. Now, after debuting at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium with a highlight catch at the fence, he gets to roam one of baseball's biggest outfields in a place where several center fielders have had to learn the tricks of tracking fly balls.
Jackson's learning process started Friday with the Tigers' home opener, and it started with some of the least inviting conditions. Though the various flags around the outfield almost always disagree, the flags above the left-field scoreboard -- the flags players usually use as a more reliable barometer -- showed winds gusting out to left with temperatures struggling to get above 40 degrees by first pitch.
It was also a day game, which Granderson used to note would present particular challenges tracking fly balls off the bat. Another past Tigers center fielder, Nook Logan, once noted that as well. One theory is that with the playing field below street level, the concourse reflects daylight at a level where Granderson and others were trying to pick up the path of the ball.
Jackson was anticipating a learning period regardless. Because he came over last December in the Granderson trade, his only time in this park until Friday was around TigerFest in January.
"I think you have to do that at every ballpark," Jackson said of an adjustment, "but especially here. It's probably one of the biggest outfields. I've played in big ballparks before, but this will be a good challenge for me."
Middle of Tigers lineup in top form early
DETROIT -- If Tigers fans were looking for the middle of the batting order to carry the offense starting out, they can't be disappointed after three games. The third through sixth hitters -- Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge -- entered Friday having driven in 12 of Detroit's 16 runs during the three-game series against the Royals.
Seven of those RBIs came from Cabrera, who became just the second player in franchise history with seven hits and seven RBIs through the season's first three games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann is the other, having done it in 1923.
"I've said all along when he masters not giving at-bats away, there's no telling what he can do," manager Jim Leyland said of Cabrera.
But he wasn't the only one who came home to Detroit with a hot bat. Ordonez's three-hit game Thursday, including his solo homer, left him at 7-for-14 for the series in Kansas City and hitting the ball solidly on a consistent basis. Guillen went 5-for-14 in the series.
Leyland was also raving about Inge and the way he looks at the plate after hitting two doubles against the Royals.
"Brandon Inge is swinging the bat extremely well," Leyland said. "He might be swinging the bat as good as I've seen him."
Tigers relieved Wells' injury isn't serious
DETROIT -- The Tigers are breathing a sigh of relief for one of their top hitting prospects after Casper Wells injured his right pinkie finger Thursday night at Triple-A Toledo.
X-rays showed nothing more than a dislocation on Wells' finger, which he jammed sliding headfirst into third base on a foul ball. How long he's out, if at all, depends on his pain tolerance, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday morning.
Any injury concern is major for the Tigers with Wells, who was limited to 86 games last year at Double-A Erie thanks to a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist. Once he returned from the mid-April injury, it was slow progress back. He finished with a .260 batting average, 15 home runs and 41 RBIs with the SeaWolves before he tore up the Arizona Fall League.
Wells is part of a quartet of outfield prospects rotating among three spots and the designated hitter slot with the Mud Hens this year. Sluggers Ryan Strieby and Brennan Boesch are also there, as is the recently optioned Clete Thomas.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.