ST. PETERSBURG -- Austin Jackson headed into the All-Star break fighting to keep his batting average above .300. A week and a half later, his bat has as much fight in it as anybody in Detroit's lineup.
More than anything Jackson has done with his technique, Jackson's second-half resurgence seems to be the result of a second wind thanks to four days off, giving him a burst of energy as well as a chance for his previously sore back to loosen up. Jackson said the time off gave him a chance to mentally reset himself.
"I had four days to get away from it a little bit and just relax, then get to come back and start over fresh," Jackson said. "Anything that you did the first half, or anything you felt uncomfortable with, you can just forget about it, wipe it clean and get a clean slate mentally. Physically, it's a long season, so your body's going to get tired naturally. But mentally, the break definitely helped."
While Detroit has had its share of offensive struggles since coming out of the break, Jackson's hitting has been its best sparkplug. He entered Monday's series opener against the Rays with a .444 average (20-for-45) since the break, including three doubles and three triples.
More importantly, his at-bats have been stronger on a consistent basis, even when the results haven't been good. The difference is enough that manager Jim Leyland believes Jackson wore down in the first half and will look to try to get him more days off in the weeks ahead.
"He's fresh from the break," Leyland said. "He's going to get a rest either [Tuesday] or the next day. Maybe I didn't do a good enough job the first half. Maybe he does need a blow more often, to keep him fresh. He's a young player. You've got to play somebody, and obviously I really like playing him, but I'm going to watch him close."
Guillen aims to resume running this week
ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Guillen said he hopes to be able to resume running within the next four to five days and baseball activity soon thereafter, giving some hope that the second baseman's stay on the disabled list might not be a long one.
Guillen went on the DL after straining his right calf Saturday night against the Blue Jays. He took in batting practice Monday evening from the Tigers' dugout, unable to do anything but watch. Guillen said the calf has loosened up considerably.
A quick return for Guillen would help recoup a little bit of the offense Detroit lost when Magglio Ordonez fractured his ankle in the same game, costing him an estimated six to eight weeks.
For the time being, it looks like the Tigers are going to keep Scott Sizemore at third base. While Don Kelly started at third for Monday's series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, Will Rhymes earned his second start in as many days at second base. He again hit second in the order between leadoff man Austin Jackson and third hitter Johnny Damon.
Tigers may simply wait out Trade Deadline
ST. PETERSBURG -- For now, the Tigers seem prepared to play a waiting game as the days whittle towards Saturday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"To my knowledge, we have absolutely nothing going on," manager Jim Leyland said.
It isn't for lack of trying. While Tigers scouts have been scattered across the Majors looking at potential trade target, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and his assistants are all gathered at Tropicana Field and will follow the team to Boston, where they'll be facing the Red Sox at the Deadline.
The Tigers are believed to have interest in Adam Dunn, the slugging Nationals first baseman. Given Washington's rumored desire for top young talent from other clubs, however, it's going to be difficult to find a match. Dunn is a free agent at season's end, and Dombrowski told reporters Sunday he will not trade top talent for a rental player.
It could well end up that the Nationals look at Detroit's secondary prospects, other than top pitchers Jacob Turner or Andy Oliver. It could also be that the Nationals use the interest pickup to draw what they want from other clubs, maybe the White Sox.
At this point, it appears unlikely that the Tigers will overwhelm a team with an offer for a trade target, definitely not ahead of the Deadline.
Defense clearly Worth's calling card
ST. PETERSBURG -- Danny Worth still remembers his coach in youth baseball pounding the mantra home: One step, throw.
"I remember having a coach who used to say I need to get rid of it fast," Worth said. "He was the one who was throwing telling me: One step, throw. Wherever I've been, even now, I work on it in batting practice. It was like travel ball when I was 13, if you can imagine telling a 13-year-old kid that."
Worth got rid of the ball fast, all right, but the instruction stuck with him. Now it has him sticking in the big leagues this summer in the middle of a playoff chase.
Monday's series opener against the Rays marked Worth's fifth consecutive start at shortstop. While Ramon Santiago also will work his way into the mix, Worth's defense has been consistent. His quick release and strong arm allows him the extra split second to make plays some shortstops wouldn't have a chance to complete.
If Worth can hit, Leyland has said often, he has a chance to be a Major League regular. If he can't, Leyland said, he'll be a utilityman. Leyland has liked the look of his at-bats in this stretch, even those they've resulted in just two hits. He's stinging the ball more consistently, including a home run Sunday and a solid line drive that required a lunging catch from Rays right fielder Ben Zobrist Monday.
"In my opinion, the last four to five days, he might not have gotten as many hits, but he's had as many good at-bats as anyone on the team," Leyland said.
Worth likes hearing that, saying he's worked on better at-bats by taking a couple more pitches. But he also knows defense is always going to be his calling card -- and that quick release.
"I tell people that even now," he said. "People ask, 'What advice can you give as far as defense? Do you do this with your hands or your feet?' I say, 'Nah, just get rid of it fast. Keep on working on that.'"
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.