By Will Burchfield @Burchie_kid
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – The Tigers had talked about it before, but only in passing.
They had entertained the idea of calling up prospect JaCoby Jones, if only because his five-tool skillset was impossible to ignore. Until recently, the discussions were fanciful more than serious.
That all changed when GM Al Avila decided the Tigers needed a spark.
“It was really Monday,” Brad Ausmus said. “We sat down and really talked about it before the game.”
So Ausmus and Avila did their due diligence, checking in with Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon for an update on Jones. McClendon raved about the 24-year-old’s recent performance.
“We decided it might be a good idea,” Ausmus said.
They may have been right. Though he’s hardly been here more than a day, Jones’ fingerprints are all over his team’s recent success.
He collected two hits and two RBIs and played soundly at third base in his big-league debut on Tuesday night, helping the Tigers to an 8-4 win. Then he turned around on Wednesday afternoon and took the field in center, later leading off the ninth inning with a double (his second of the day) and sliding home with the winning run in the Tigers’ 3-2 walk-off victory.
“I don’t know if I could expect anything like that,” Jones said of his first two games in the major leagues. “I know I was just going to come out here and just play my game and just do what I can to help the team win, whether it’s get on base, play good defense, run the bases well, drive in some runs.”
For a Tigers’ ball club that was beginning to show signs of fatigue, Jones was just what the doctor ordered.
“He’s been a real sparkplug for us, a shot in the arm especially in the last couple of games,” said Justin Verlander, who turned in yet another terrific start on Wednesday.
Brad Ausmus – who clarified that it was Avila’s idea to call up Jones, not his – said the rookie’s promotion has gone exactly as planned.
“It’s kind of what we were hoping for – some energy. He can do a lot of things. He’s very athletic, obviously he can play multiple positions, including center field which is a premium position. He’s been hitting the ball well since he arrived, so there’s really been no downside,” the manager said.
Jones has long been known as a multi-talented prospect and it is perhaps his speed that has gained the most notice so far. He churns up the base paths every chance he gets, the latest coming on the final play in Wednesday’s game with Jones standing on third base and hoping to score on a sacrifice fly.
Tyler Collins lifted a ball into shallow left center field, right at that depth where most runners would play it safe.
“I was tagging up no matter what,” Jones smiled. “I was like, I’m gonna give it a shot and just use my speed.”
Outfielder Avisail Garcia bobbled the ball for a moment, providing Jones the fraction of an inch he needed. The throw wasn’t even close.
“He can run,” Ausmus said on Tuesday night, forgetting to add that the grass is green.
On Wednesday, the manager pointed to a different aspect of Jones’ game as the catalyst to the Tigers’ success.
“Clearly in two games, it’s been his bat,” Ausmus said. “He’s gotten big hits, whether it was driving in runs yesterday or leading off with a double in the bottom of the 9th today. That right there injects energy.”
Aside from his contributions in the box score, Ausmus also thinks the Tigers have benefited from Jones’ youthful exuberance.
“There’s definitely something to the fact that a young player can bring that excitement to a ball club, just because the big-league atmosphere is new to them. They’re very excited to be there, they’re very excited to be in the game, very excited to be hitting or pitching and I think that is an aspect of it,” Ausmus explained.
Jones admitted it’s been a whirlwind ride so far, providing the rookie very little time to catch his breath and collect his thoughts. (He did, however, get “the best sleep of his life” on Tuesday night.) And this feverish pace seems to suit him just fine.
“Every second has been an adrenaline rush, it’s excitement. Hearing the crowd roar is giving me chills and getting those hits in big time situations, it’s amazing,” Jones said.
When he slid head-first into home plate with the winning run on Wednesday afternoon, Ian Kinsler was there to greet him. The veteran bent down for a double high five, the rookie leaped into his arms.
“I jumped in the air a little bit and he just picked me up. It was kind of perfect timing,” Jones recalled.
Just like his promotion to the bigs.