3/4/2014 6:54 P.M. ET
Porcello's fielding miscues mar otherwise decent start
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello did a lot of things well in his three innings of work on Tuesday against the Pirates. His sinker was moving, his curveball landing for strikes and so on. He induced five groundball outs and only gave up two hard-hit balls, both of them doubles.
However, a couple of defensive miscues around the mound left his line looking a little worse than he felt in a 5-2 loss at Joker Marchant Stadium. After cruising through the first and second innings, Porcello wound up allowing three runs in the third.
Josh Harrison doubled to left to lead off the inning. With Harrison at third after a groundout, Jaff Decker dropped a squeeze bunt that brought home Harrison, and Porcello's throw to first found Miguel Cabrera well off the bag. Jose Tabata singled on a short chopper that Porcello couldn't quite handle, Decker scored on Gregory Polanco's line-drive double to right and Tabata came home on a groundout by Pedro Alvarez.
"I could've fielded my position a little bit better," Porcello said. "That one bunt that I hesitated on and even the one down the third-base line, I had a legitimate shot of getting him at first and kind of bobbled the ball."
Porcello said both doubles were off changeups, as that pitch wasn't dropping Tuesday like it normally does. The right-hander said he'd like to focus on his changeup and throwing first-pitch strikes when he makes his third Grapefruit League start.
"Definitely I need to be throwing more first-pitch strikes and continue to get my changeup down where it needs to be. It's a little up in the zone right now," Porcello said. "I need to work down in the zone with it and just finish it -- just releasing it a hair too early, which is causing it to be flat."
Jackson finding spring success with 'natural' swing
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus still isn't saying where Austin Jackson will hit in Detroit's lineup, and Jackson isn't getting too worked up about it. The point right now isn't that Jackson could hit anywhere; it's that he's hitting just about anything thrown his way.
Jackson smacked a two-run homer to left in the fourth inning of the Tigers' 5-2 loss to the Pirates on Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium. In five Grapefruit League games so far, he's gone 8-for-13 with a homer, a double, two walks, seven RBIs and five runs scored.
"He looks good. He's hit the ball well all spring," Ausmus said. "Let's hope he continues to stay hot for six and a half more months."
A productive Jackson would be huge for the Tigers' lineup no matter where he hits. It could be in the leadoff spot he's occupied his entire career, or it could be further down in the five or six hole, where he's been slotted early on this spring. Ausmus said not to read too much into where Jackson's hitting in early March, as Spring Training lineups aren't indicative of anything until closer to Opening Day.
Either way, Jackson's more concerned about his approach than the number by his name on the lineup card.
"I think it's more just trying to get consistent from a mechanical standpoint," Jackson said, "just trying to make sure that I'm continuing to do the things that I've been working on in batting practice and stuff like that and trying my best to take that into the game."
Jackson has worked on his own and with new hitting coach Wally Joyner on making his swing feel more natural and comfortable. He brought back the leg kick before his swing, but he said it's more important that he does it without thinking.
"Just letting it be natural and not trying to force something. I think the whole offseason, that's kind of what I was telling myself every time I went to hit," Jackson said. "Whether it was doing the toe tap or the leg kick or just going, 'I wanted to feel comfortable and let it be natural.'
"That's what I did, and coming back and telling Wally some of the things that I worked on. He was good with however I wanted to stand, leg kick, toe tap, whatever. I think that just getting back to the basics and keeping it simple was the goal we were trying to reach."
• Ausmus said he isn't sure exactly when Jose Iglesias (shin splints) will get back on the field, but he heard the shortstop is moving in the right direction and feeling better. At this point, Ausmus said, the Tigers are aiming to get Iglesias completely healthy before he resumes baseball activities, as they don't want the injury to flare up again later.
"We're trying not only to get rid of the pain, but also minimize the chances of it returning," Ausmus said.
• Lefty reliever Duane Below (elbow irritation) is continuing to receive treatment and has not resumed throwing, Ausmus said.
• Reliever Joba Chamberlain caused something of a stir on Twitter on Sunday when he posted a picture of catcher Bryan Holaday wearing a one-piece swimsuit next to model Kate Upton, with the caption, "Too many bikini models in 1 room." Chamberlain said the outfit was entirely Holaday's idea, and he wasn't surprised by the reaction the photo has received, including more than 1,000 retweets and 800 favorites.
"It was just one of those spur-of-the-moment kind of things. It fit, so when in Rome, you know?" Chamberlain said, laughing. "Obviously, the reaction to a grown man in a one-piece stars-and-stripes swimsuit is going to be a reaction no matter where it's at. ... He probably could have used a spray tan before, but we'll have to work on that.
"He embraced it. You've got to love somebody like that."