When the Detroit Tigers added Ian Kinsler in the offseason, the competition for the leadoff spot in the batting order was on. The spot has belonged to Austin Jackson in the recent past, but for now it appears Brad Ausmus prefers him lower in the lineup.
Some hitters might not take the change of roles in stride, but Jackson has handled it excellently this spring. He added another three-hit game against the Miami Marlins Thursday, giving him a .590 batting average this spring. Most importantly for Jackson, he has cut down his strikeout rate through the early part of the season. He has just four strikeouts and eight walks in 25 at-bats.
Jackson has registered most of his at-bats in the sixth spot in the batting order this spring, which could be an prime spot considering he’ll likely be hitting ahead of Nick Castellanos. This would give the Tigers a solid speed-power combination at the bottom of the batting order that they didn’t have in 2013. Even if he’s inserted lower in the lineup, he should still get plenty of chances to score runs.
Fellow outfielder Torii Hunter said he and Jackson worked out together in the offseason and he is confident in his new approach to the season. If Jackson does indeed start the season lower in the batting order, there will be a lot less pressure on him than he is used to as a leadoff hitter. For now, it appears he is ready to thrive in that position.
You can’t read too far into Spring Training numbers, but it’s always a good sign when a player who struggled at the end of the previous season bounces back with a hot start. In the event that Kinsler struggles or has to miss some games, the Tigers have Jackson as a solid second option.