Tigers activate Jackson from the DL; option Garcia to Toledo to make room
DETROIT — Don’t get it wrong.
The Detroit Tigers think that Avisail Garcia will be an impact player down the road, that he’ll be a guy they will want in their lineup nearly full-time, eventually.
They love Avisail Garcia.
They NEED Austin Jackson.
So when Jackson’s rehab stint went according to plan, he was recalled from Triple-A Toledo Friday, and activated from the 15-day disabled list, where he’d languished for just more than a month, forcing the Tigers to make do in center field and in the leadoff spot.
“We get Austin Jackson back, that’ll excite us a little bit. He ignites our offense when he hits doubles to lead off a game, or every once in a while hits a triple,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said last week. “Gets on and can steal a bag. That’ll help. But hey, you make do.”
And, according to plan, Garcia went right back to doing what he was supposed to be doing, optioned out to Toledo, where he can continue to get at-bats and develop.
“He needs to be at Triple-A getting 500 at-bats,” Leyland said two weeks into Garcia’s short stint at the big-league level, replacing Jackson.
“The kid’s a big-time prospect, and that’s what he is. We love him. I said three or four years ago he was the best prospect in the system. He can run, throw, hit, hit with power.
“He’s got a chance to be an impact player at some point.”
Jackson is an impact player now.
And the Tigers need him.
They went 16-14 with him on the DL, and are 24-27 without him over the last two seasons.
He was immediately inserted in the starting lineup for Friday’s game at Minnesota.
“He’s our catalyst. He’s a guy we need in the lineup. You’re built a certain way, you know, and when he goes down, you get other guys out of their roles,” said Don Kelly, who split a lot of the action in center field with Garcia in Jackson’s absence. “We need Austin back.”
Now they have him.
Everybody agrees that’s a good thing.
Not everybody is going to agree that sending out Garcia was a no-brainer, especially considering he hit .288 with 10 RBI in 24 games.
It’s not like he’s burst on to the scene like the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, though.
Garcia has still got some maturing to do, and a little bit of success at the big-league level is not going to change that fact. And it didn’t exactly give the Tigers an outfield logjam, like some had intimated.
“No. I don’t worry about that one bit. I tell them (fans that) Austin Jackson’s coming back to play center field. That’s what I tell them,” said Leyland, foreshadowing exactly what happened.
“Who’s he going to replace?” Leyland asked rhetorically, naming off the regulars in the outfield, including Jackson, right fielder Torii Hunter and the left-field combo of Andy Dirks and Matt Tuiasosopo. “The guy hit a triple and knocked in a few runs. It doesn’t mean he’s taking Austin Jackson’s job.”
More logically, it would have been a matter of taking over the right-handed portion of the left-field platoon, ousting Tuiasosopo. Considering Tuiasosopo is hitting .349 (and .333 against left-handed pitching), that seems unlikely.
Garcia wasn’t going to take the spot of Dirks, since he’s not a left-handed bat, nor was he going to take the utility role of Kelly, another left-hander.
There’s also the fact that, with the exception of Garcia and Dirks, who still have options left, the Tigers would have had to designate for assignment any other player involved to be able to send them to the minors. They’ve already lost two players — Duane Below and Quintin Berry — when they were exposed to waivers in the DFA process.
The Tigers did see good things from Garcia, though.
After the vast majority of his hits went to right-field in his stint with the parent club late last season, and in the postseason, this year, Garcia was more able to use all fields. And he seemed more comfortable against big-league pitchers, trying to put the ball in play, rather than trying not to strike out, settling for just making contact.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen with Garcia, that I really like, is that he’s not been passive to the ball anymore. He’s been real aggressive to the ball,” said Leyland, who does not envision the 22-year-old being a center fielder when he eventually comes back to the Tigers for good.
For one, he has a tendency to float to the ball, the coaching staff has noticed, a habit they’ve worked hard to break him of — just as hard as they’ve tried to keep him from lunging at first base, the bad habit that cost him the start of the season with a heel contusion.
“He’s accounted for himself well,” Leyland said. “If I was to say, right now, if I was to predict the future, I would say he’s probably a corner guy, but he’s been working with Brookie (outfield coach Tom Brookens), working on his throwing, working on what he’s supposed to do.”
What he’s supposed to do right now is go back to Toledo, and continue to improve, making room for Austin Jackson.