DETROIT -- After 16 games and 144 1/3 innings, Austin Jackson had a game off. It's not exactly a Prince Fielder-like streak, but it's part of manager Brad Ausmus' plan to rest his center fielder some early so that he can play him every day late.
"He's played every game, every day," Ausmus said. "He'll be back in there tomorrow."
The 16 consecutive starts are a little deceptive, because four scheduled off-days and two postponements created breaks in the schedule. That said, the Tigers are halfway through a stretch of 12 straight games, including a three-game series at Minnesota this weekend.
Last season, Jackson started 33 of the Tigers' first 34 games, playing every inning in 32 of them, before missing a month with a strained right hamstring. Ausmus doesn't have a budget of how often he'd like to rest Jackson, but he'll pick his spots.
"I think you do have to take the long view in the sense that you hope to be in a pennant race in September, where you don't want to give him off-days," Ausmus said. "So if you're taking the long view, you try to mix him in a little bit earlier, in theory to keep him fresher for the last month."
Given Jackson's statistical struggles against left-handed pitchers, such as White Sox starter Charlie Leesman, those would seem to be the games when Jackson is most likely to sit. However, Ausmus cautioned that Jackson has looked like a different hitter this season against lefties.
Jackson is 4-for-10 with four walks off southpaws. He batted just .213 (34-for-160) off lefties last season, and owns a .249 average against them for his career.
"It goes into the thought process," Ausmus said, "though I think Jackson's a little bit different hitter this year. I'm not sure it really matters quite as much."
With Jackson off, Rajai Davis shifted over to center field for the first time as a Tiger, taking on the challenge of the spacious gaps at Comerica Park on a night when a strong, steady wind was blowing out to left-center field. J.D. Martinez, who made his Detroit debut as a pinch-hitter Monday night to the sound of fans chanting his initials, made his first start as a Tiger in left.
Scherzer, Miggy work on defensive communication
DETROIT -- The tarp was still on the mound at Comerica Park early Tuesday afternoon when Max Scherzer emerged from the dugout with teammate Miguel Cabrera and manager Brad Ausmus. They didn't need it for the defensive work they were doing.
For about 15-20 minutes, Ausmus chucked balls into the ground to the first-base side of the mound and let Scherzer and Cabrera decide who would take the ball and who would cover first base. It was a drill to help Scherzer and Cabrera develop some familiarity working together defensively.
"That was Scherzer's idea," Ausmus said. "He wanted to work on it. I was trying to think if I had ever seen it before. I'm not sure I have."
It was a first for Scherzer, too, but it was something he'd been wanting to do for a while. Between Cabrera's early batting practice and Scherzer's throwing session between starts, their schedules didn't match up until Tuesday.
It wasn't the result of anything that happened in a game, he said, but something he felt he needed.
"That's the toughest play for [pitchers' fielding practice]," Scherzer said.
The drill happened so early, there was no bag at first base. Scherzer outlined a box where it was supposed to be and made sure to put his foot there when he covered.
If the drill sounds like something former Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers would do, it makes sense. Rogers won five Gold Gloves in his career, including his first season as a Tiger in 2006, and became an example for younger Tigers pitchers to follow in terms of recognizing how much a pitcher can help his cause by fielding his position.
Rogers has spent the last few years as a Spring Training instructor in Tigers camp, and has talked with Scherzer about philosophies.
Tigers continue eco-friendly initiatives
DETROIT -- One of the more common sights in the clubhouse at Spring Training was the reusable plastic coffee cup from Starbucks, something several players used for their morning beverage on their way into Joker Marchant Stadium. The Tigers' efforts at recycling and environmental consciousness go a little further back.
The Tigers' efforts to become more environmentally conscious date back to 2007, when they installed new seats in the Tiger Den made of recycled plastic milk jugs. When the Tigers installed their new high-definition LED video board at Comerica Park in 2012, they looked for energy efficiency as a side benefit.
Around the ballpark, the Tigers placed large, bottle-shaped recycling containers last season for fans to toss their plastic bottles. Other garbage has recyclables filtered out at a transfer station and sent to a recycling company.
• The Tigers signed Rajai Davis last December to bring the kind of aggressiveness on the basepaths that they hadn't seen in a while. So far, the statistical pace is the most aggressive the Tigers have seen in years.
Davis' seven stolen bases entering Tuesday's game against the White Sox mark the most by a Tiger before the end of April since Juan Encarnacion stole the same number of bases in 1999. With more than a week to go before the calendar turns to May, Davis has a slight chance at the modern Tigers record of 12 steals by May 1, set by Gary Pettis in 1988.
The Tigers rarely have had players get off to fast starts on the bases in the Comerica Park era. Josh Anderson swiped six bases in April five years ago, which stood as the mark until Davis ran his way past it.
For Davis, though, this is a relatively normal pace. He went 6-for-7 in stolen bases in the opening month last season, and 10-for-10 in 2010.
• The odd call that abruptly stopped play in the seventh inning Monday was indeed a balk call on reliever Ian Krol. Umpires ruled he did not come to a complete stop before going home on his 2-2 pitch to Alejandro De Aza.
Krol followed through on his pitch, and De Aza grounded it to first base, but time was already called. Alexei Ramirez, who went from second to third base on the groundout, simply stayed there, while De Aza went back to the plate.
Ausmus said he looked at the video of the play and wasn't sure why a balk was called. Pitching coach Jeff Jones was similarly perplexed. Krol, however, told reporters on Tuesday that he indeed had balked.
"If Krol felt something," Ausmus said, "he probably did something to tip it off."
• Major League Baseball upheld the call of an error on Alex Gonzalez from Thursday's win over Cleveland. The call came on a sixth-inning ground ball to Yan Gomes, which Gonzalez fielded but threw wide to Miguel Cabrera as Gomes ran by. The call was later appealed.