"This is exactly the way I drew it up. This is perfect ... exactly what I wanted to see happen," said a frustrated Jones at his locker following the 4-3 win. "Looks like I have to take a 15-day timeout. I'm hoping it's not too bad, and we'll see what happens."
The 37-year-old right-hander had battled soreness in his left hamstring since Monday's game against Houston, but said he thought he'd just overextended a muscle. He rested two days and felt fine through a scoreless inning Thursday. On Saturday, Jones said he got loose and again said he felt fine.
Until the last batter of the exhibition season.
After feeling what he called "a little pop" on a 1-1 cutter to Rays right fielder Joey Gathright, Jones tried to throw one more. His last pitch went high and hit just 87 mph on the radar, after which he motioned to catcher Vance Wilson, who turned to the dugout after a quick chat with Jones.
Detroit head trainer Kevin Rand told manager Jim Leyland he felt a definite knot in Jones' upper leg, but because of the short time frame between the injury and game's conclusion, couldn't elaborate as to the extent of the injury.
Despite the bad timing, Leyland remained optimistic.
"We have to go do battle with what we've got, and hopefully we get Todd back as soon as possible, have him healthy," Leyland said. "We've got 162 games, he's going to pitch a lot, and he's going to save a lot of games. I don't like it any more than anyone else. ... But those things happen and that's the way it is."
Leyland said he wanted time to mull things over before deciding who would fill the closer's role in Jones' absence, but it is assumed the ball most likely will fall to Fernando Rodney. The 29-year-old righty earned nine saves in 15 chances after assuming the closer's role after Kyle Farnsworth was traded. Rodney has had arguably the strongest spring of the contenders, carrying a 3.00 ERA through six innings with eight strikeouts and two walks.
Guillen finishes strong: One of the major questions this spring has been how well Carlos Guillen's back will hold up. He has been hit-and-miss since returning from the World Baseball Classic, leaving some games early with tightness, being scratched completely from others with spasms. Leyland was hopeful he'd see Guillen play seven innings Saturday, and the shortstop didn't disappoint, finishing 1-for-2 with a double and a walk in eight innings.
He didn't get any help from Casey Fossum, who plunked the shortstop in the leg during his first at-bat. Guillen hobbled down to first but showed no lasting harm was done by stealing second three pitches later.
Roster set: The 25-man roster, pending any move that might be made as a result of Jones' condition, was officially set before the Tigers broke camp. The club purchased from Triple-A Toledo the contracts of left-handed pitcher Bobby Seay and second baseman Ramon Santiago, and designated righty Franklyn German and catcher Rob Bowen for assignment. Detroit placed right-hander Craig Dingman on the 15-day DL (shoulder surgery) and Troy Percival on the 60-day DL (torn muscle in his right elbow).
Lineup locked: Barring any unforeseen problems, Leyland said the lineup Detroit used Saturday against the Rays would stand for Opening Day as well. The only significant change between Saturday's lineup and that of March 25, one he also fingered as a probable Opener list, was that first baseman Chris Shelton batted sixth and Guillen eighth, instead of the other way around.
"That's right on the button, if everybody stays healthy," he said.
In-flight movie: During the Tigers' flight to Kansas City on Saturday night, the players might relax, play cards, talk and nap. Not so for the coaches, Leyland said.
"We've got a 2 1/2-hour plane ride to watch [scouting videos]," he said, marveling at the recent advancements in technology. "You have to be more conscious of science now than you ever were.
"Now you've got guys running up to the clubhouse in between at-bats, looking at their last at-bat."
Smashing spring: The Tigers finished in the top five in several AL team hitting and pitching categories in the Grapefruit League this spring, including batting average (.292, tied for fifth through Friday), runs scored (197) and RBIs (189, second). Detroit led all AL teams with 349 hits and 55 home runs. The Tigers also led the AL in saves (16).
Individually, Curtis Granderson led the Grapefruit League with 18 runs scored and 14 walks. He finished tied for third with 26 hits and six homers, and ranked in the top 10 in nearly every other offensive category.
Quotable: "The game's still catch it, throw it, hit it, pitch it...I'm old, but I'm not old school. I play the game."
Up next: Detroit will hold a noon workout in Kansas City on Sunday before Opening Day against the Royals on Monday. Left-hander Kenny Rogers will get the ball for Detroit in the 4:10 p.m. ET matchup, and will oppose Royals righty Scott Elarton. Rogers, who will be making his Tigers debut, was 3-0 with a 3.46 ERA against Kansas City in 2005.