Center fielder-third baseman to help fill in for Maybin, Castellanos; Boyd also sent down
By Jason Beck
DETROIT -- JaCoby Jones climbed the prospect rankings in the Tigers' system as a combination center fielder and third baseman. With Cameron Maybin sidelined and Nick Castellanos on the disabled list, Detroit is going to give him a chance to be a little bit of both.
A day after Maybin reinjured his left thumb, the Tigers called up Jones from Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday, adding the versatile 24-year-old to the 40-man roster. The No. 9 Tigers prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, takes the place of Casey McGehee, who was optioned to Toledo to make room.
"It was not related," manager Brad Ausmus said before Tuesday's game, "but it gives us an option in center, should Maybin be longer-term."
More important, Ausmus said: "See if we can inject a little bit of life into the offense."
That certainly happened in Tuesday night's 8-4 win over the White Sox, in which Jones drove in the go-ahead run as part of a two-hit, two-RBI MLB debut.
The Tigers also swapped pitchers to add an extra reliever, recalling lefty Blaine Hardy from Toledo. Matt Boyd, Detroit's starting pitcher in Monday's 4-3 win over the White Sox, was optioned to Toledo, but the move is temporary. Major League rosters expand beyond the standard 25 on Thursday, allowing the Tigers to recall Boyd by next Tuesday, after Toledo's season ends. McGehee, too, can return next week.
The more important move is the addition of Jones, one of the quiet gems of Detroit's Trade Deadline deals last summer. Acquired from Pittsburgh for reliever Joakim Soria, the former Louisiana State infielder enjoyed a standout final month with Double-A Erie, followed by a strong campaign in the Arizona Fall League before being suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a substance of abuse. Jones vaulted into the top 10 on MLBPipeline.com's Tigers prospect rankings.
After a strong Spring Training, Jones finished his suspension, then picked up where he left off, batting .257 (95-for-369) with 20 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 43 RBIs between Toledo and Erie. He rebounded from a rough start with the Mud Hens to bat .269 (29-for-108) in August, with seven doubles, a triple and seven RBIs.
More recently, Jones hit .340 (18-for-57) over his last 13 games, with five doubles and a triple.
"Lately it's been good," Jones said. "It feels real good in the box. I feel comfortable. So it's good to get the callup here. Maybe I can keep swinging it well, help the Tigers win some games, get on base, produce some runs for them."
A hitter with a high strikeout rate -- including 97 over 79 games with Toledo -- Jones could be an all-or-nothing hitter down the stretch as he tries to adjust to Major League pitching. With injuries taking their toll on Detroit's roster, however, management is willing to take a shot.
Jones started 57 games in center field and 18 at third base for Toledo. He can provide a right-handed bat to complement Tyler Collins in center and Erick Aybar, among others, at third.
Jones played third base and batted eighth in his debut Tuesday.
"Like I said, we're trying to inject some life into the offense," Ausmus said. "He's playing against a righty today, but I'd imagine he'd play more against lefties."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.