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Gardenhire to Jones: Keep playing aggressive

Cabrera returns to Tigers' lineup; Martinez (ankle) out vs. Royals
MLB.com @beckjason

KANSAS CITY -- JaCoby Jones would've understood another greeting of frustration from his manager as he trudged back to the dugout in the seventh inning on Wednesday, having been thrown out trying to tag up from first base on a fly ball to medium-depth center field on Rays outfielder Mallex Smith. Jones was frustrated at himself after James McCann homered a few pitches later, a game-tying shot that could've been a go-ahead drive if not for Jones' out on the basepaths.

The message Jones received from Ron Gardenhire was just the opposite.

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KANSAS CITY -- JaCoby Jones would've understood another greeting of frustration from his manager as he trudged back to the dugout in the seventh inning on Wednesday, having been thrown out trying to tag up from first base on a fly ball to medium-depth center field on Rays outfielder Mallex Smith. Jones was frustrated at himself after James McCann homered a few pitches later, a game-tying shot that could've been a go-ahead drive if not for Jones' out on the basepaths.

The message Jones received from Ron Gardenhire was just the opposite.

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"I hit him in the chest," Gardenhire said, "and I said, 'Keep playing. That's all I care about. Just keep playing the game like that.'"

There are leaders in many sports who draw a difference between mistakes of aggression and mistakes of tentativeness or indecision. Gardenhire falls in that camp. There's an awareness factor at times, which is why Gardenhire harped on Jones when he missed a hold sign and stole second base with a three-run deficit in the ninth inning on Monday.

Wednesday's move was different, especially the way Blake Snell was pitching. Third-base coach Dave Clark said they noted in meetings going into the series that they could run on Smith.

"I was just trying to be aggressive and make something happen," Jones said. "We only had one run at the time. We were struggling to try to get something going. I was just trying to make the momentum come to us. He had to make a perfect throw, and it was a bang-bang play. Stuff like that happens. Most of the time it's hard for outfielders to throw guys out like that. You have to make a perfect throw, and he did. Props to him."

That aggressiveness, trying to create momentum and force a defender to make a play, is good with Gardenhire.

"I told you guys all along that if we make mistakes aggressively like that and we're trying to get in a situation to win a baseball game, go for it," Gardenhire said. "He tried to make a play, they got him out. They made a good throw. Keep playing. You can't back away and say, 'Oh, that was stupid.' That was effort, and that's all we're after here is guys playing the game the right way."

Jones has the speed to do that. His sprint speed of 28.6 feet per second is the fastest on the Tigers this season, as measured by Statcast™, just ahead of Niko Goodrum. Jones also had the top sprint speed for Detroit last season at 29.0 feet per second. This season, he's getting more of a chance to use it, both with playing time and with baserunning aggressiveness.

Jones atoned for the out Wednesday with his leadoff triple in the 12th inning to set up the winning run. Clark was emphatic putting up the hold sign on Jones as he dashed towards third base, but Jones said he had no ambitions of trying for a walk-off inside-the-park homer, knowing the value of a runner on third with nobody out.

Video: TB@DET: Jones hits a leadoff triple to center in 12th

Norris has successful surgery
Left-hander Daniel Norris underwent successful surgery on his left groin and pelvic region, the Tigers announced Thursday morning.

Norris underwent what the team called a muscular decompression procedure, relieving pressure on his groin muscle. Core muscle specialist Dr. William Meyers performed the surgery Thursday in Philadelphia, and Norris will have a follow-up exam before he begins rehabbing at Detroit's Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla.

The Tigers did not announce a timetable for recovery, but Norris said earlier this week that he expects to miss eight to 12 weeks. He could begin playing catch as early as three weeks.

Quick hit
John Hicks' game-winning bunt single Wednesday marked the Tigers' first win on a walk-off bunt since May 8, 2015, when Ian Kinsler had a game-winning bunt single.

Video: TB@DET: Hicks walks it off with a squeeze in the 12th

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, John Hicks, JaCoby Jones, Victor Martinez, Daniel Norris