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JaCoby on a run of quality at-bats

@beckjason
May 29, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The called third strike that ended Sunday’s loss to the Mets could’ve been a crusher for the Tigers' JaCoby Jones, a 10-pitch battle with hard-throwing closer Edwin Diaz that ended with a called strike on what looked like a pitch off the plate that could’ve been ball four.

BALTIMORE -- The called third strike that ended Sunday’s loss to the Mets could’ve been a crusher for the Tigers' JaCoby Jones, a 10-pitch battle with hard-throwing closer Edwin Diaz that ended with a called strike on what looked like a pitch off the plate that could’ve been ball four.

“That was a great at-bat against a guy throwing high 90s, and he wasn't jumping out there, even at the slider,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He took a couple sliders that were pretty good sliders, and he recognized them. And that's kind of the whole goal for him.”

The end result could’ve sent Jones back into his old habits of chasing pitches. Instead, the longer, more disciplined at-bats have kept coming. Three of Jones’ eight plate appearances Monday and Tuesday lasted five pitches or more. He had two doubles and a walk in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Orioles, his fourth multi-hit effort in five games on the road trip. He entered Wednesday’s series finale batting 9-for-21 with three doubles, a home run and seven RBIs on the trip, raising his batting average from .173 to .214.

This is what the Tigers, especially hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, have been trying to get out of Jones for two years. This is the result of the adjustment made to Jones’ stance at the plate.

By getting the bat off his shoulders and his hands lower, Jones has not only become quicker to the ball, he has become steadier at the plate, allowing his eyes to track pitches better.

“I think it keeps my eyes still,” Jones said. “Usually when in the box, I'm moving around, and it keeps my eyes moving. So now this just allows me to stay still, keep things simple. … I'm still swinging at some. But for the most part, I'm seeing the ball pretty well now. I think it's just keeping my eyes still. It feels good, so I'm going to keep it up.”

Gardenhire wants him to not only keep it up but build off it. He’d like to see Jones put down more bunts, use his speed and test defenses. But he’ll take this for now.

“If he can recognize pitches and stay better in the zone, with the way he plays defense, that's what you're looking for,” Gardenhire said. “You don't have to do a lot offensively when you play defense like that. Just cut down on the strikeouts.

“You can't be a 150-strikeout guy. You have to put the ball in play, you have to get action because you can run. I know he still takes big swings. He's not a guy that puts it in play and outruns it. But he's still gotta use those feet a little bit.”

Mercer suffers setback in rehab
What was hoped to be a minor blip on shortstop Jordy Mercer’s rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo could instead keep him out a little while. An MRI exam on Mercer’s right quad revealed what doctors are calling an acute-on-chronic muscle strain.

Mercer is getting a second opinion, but the Tigers have recalled him from his rehab assignment for now, stopping the clock on his 20-day limit. Mercer has been on the injured list since May 9 with a right quad strain.

Also getting a second opinion is second baseman Josh Harrison, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday with a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

Tigers sign Schwindel to minor-league deal
The Tigers have signed former Royals first baseman Frank Schwindel to a minor-league deal, providing some depth in the farm system in case of injuries.

Schwindel, who turns 27 next month, cracked the Royals’ Opening Day roster this season after slugging 38 doubles and 24 homers last year for Triple-A Omaha. A 1-for-15 start to the season led to his return to Omaha, and a 13-for-70 start there led to the Royals designating him for assignment two weeks ago.

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