DETROIT -- Three months after a play at the plate played a huge role for the Tigers in the World Series, the team is bringing on a baserunning consultant. But Prince Fielder's awkward slide apparently has nothing to do with Detroit's motivation for hiring veteran Major League coach Jeff Cox.
According to manager Jim Leyland, the club has hired Cox to help get better results out of its speedier players, especially leadoff man Austin Jackson.
"He's going to work with Jackson and some of the guys that have the potential to steal bases, [Andy] Dirks, guys like that," Leyland said. "Really, Jackson's the primary guy, obviously. We want him to get a little better at that. That's always been one of [Cox's] strong suits."
Cox spent four years as the White Sox third-base coach under former manager Ozzie Guillen before he took last season off and spent time with family. He was a coach with the Pirates and Marlins in previous stops, including the 2003 World Series championship team in Florida.
It doesn't forbode any change on the Tigers' coaching staff, but it seemingly signifies an emphasis on baserunning for this club going forward. Leyland has mentioned several times over the years that he'd like his club to improve on the basepaths, get smarter and more aggressive if not actually faster.
For many, Fielder's out at the plate in Game 2 of the World Series might be the most memorable example of baserunning haunting the Tigers. Third-base coach Gene Lamont took much of the blame and accepted it after the game, but others suggested a better slide from Fielder would've gotten him around catcher Buster Posey's tag.
The Tigers announced last month that Lamont will move to bench coach this year, with Tom Brookens replacing him at third. Brookens has been in charge of the club's baserunning work since he joined the staff in 2010, and he'll continue to hold that role.
Cox will do more individual work. He'll spend time with the team in Spring Training, the Tigers said in a press release, then make occasional appearances during the season when the club is at home.
"We just think that's a real nice fit," Leyland said. "That's always been his expertise. It's always been. We just hope he can get some of that across to some of our guys."
Jackson made an immediate impact in Detroit as an efficient basestealer in 2010, swiping 27 bases in 33 attempts, but his totals have dropped since. He stole just 12 bases in 21 attempts last year, and didn't even attempt to take a base during the postseason.
Leyland has said they've given him a steady green light to steal second base, but Jackson hasn't been as aggressive, perhaps not wanting to make an out on the bases with Miguel Cabrera due up to the plate.
Dirks' stolen-base numbers took a similar dive, from five steals in seven attempts in 2011 to 1-for-2 last year. He stole a base during the American League Division Series against Oakland.
Detroit stole 59 bases last season. Only Baltimore had fewer steals (58). The club's 82 attempts ranked dead last in the big leagues; 26 other teams stole more bases than the Tigers attempted to steal.
The formidable hitting in the middle of Detroit's lineup undoubtedly played a role, including Major League bests with a .286 average and .799 OPS with runners in scoring position. Still, all that hitting with runners in scoring position resulted in just the sixth-highest run total among AL clubs.