Austin Jackson tests hamstring, nears rehab

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers have missed their leadoff batter and center fielder, but he appears to be making progress toward a return.

Austin Jackson has not played for the Tigers since May 11 thanks to a hamstring injury, but he appears to be nearing his return to the team. Jackson tested his legs on the basepaths at Camden Yards and could make a rehab assignment soon, Chris Iott of MLive reports.

Via Iott:

"He tested it at about 80 percent yesterday," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said earlier in the day Saturday, prior to when the Tigers took the field for pregame work. "He's going to test it again today and then we're going to see where we stand. But he wasn't going all out yesterday. I think [Tigers trainer] Kevin [Rand] said he was going about 80 percent. Then we'll wait and see."

Jackson's absence has been felt in both the field and the lineup. The Tigers scored 5.4 runs per game through May 11, but since then they've scored nearly a run less at 4.6. The Tigers recently bottomed out with two 11-inning shutouts by the Pirates in a three-day period. The leadoff batter, Jackson has an on-base percentage of .333 and has scored 33 runs in 34 games. Don Kelly and Avisail Garcia has seen an increase in playing time in his absence. Garcia hit a second home run on the year Friday but has just a .286 OBP. Kelly has a .326 OBP since May 12, but has scored seven runs in 16 games.

Jackson's absence in center field has been notable too. Detroit has only suffered a slight increase in runs allowed per game, but losing one of the top defensive center fielders in the game is going to be felt by any team and you can't help but feel he'd have made a few catches Kelly or Garcia didn't make it to.

So despite the seemingly positive news, it still sounds like a return is at least a week away.

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