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Tigers rookies Jackson, Sizemore get some additional spotlight

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It's not that second baseman Scott Sizemore and center fielder Austin Jackson have exactly been anonymous during spring training.

But a spurt of articles over the past few days put some additional spotlight on the two players who could go a long way toward helping the Tigers both this season and in the future.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe talked to Jackson for his Sunday baseball roundup, and it sounds like Jackson is happy just to be himself and doesn't worry about any additional pressure -- because Detroit pressure can't compete with the kind of stuff he was hearing in the Big Apple.

"When I was over there, they were trying to compare me to [Mickey] Mantle and Bernie Williams,’’ said Jackson, "and I was saying, ‘Whoa, I haven’t even played a game in the big leagues yet.’ I got a lot of attention, so there was pressure. "Here, I’m able to just play and be me, and hopefully that will allow my talent and abilities to come out."

USA Today focused on the fact the Tigers expect Jackson to bat leadoff but at the same time hope to improve when they have two strikes. Of course, Jackson struck out 130 times last season in Triple-A, a fact USA Today left out when tying those two topics together.

But maybe he will make better contact this year. The Detroit News' Lynn Henning has an update on Jackson's approach at the plate and how he has worked with coaches to improve his two-part swing.

Henning wrote:

He and Lloyd McClendon have been working on bringing back a slight front-foot kick that once was part of Jackson's batting approach when he was in the New York Yankees' farm system.

"Yeah, it allows me to hit against my front side," said Jackson, meaning he can build more resistance into his swing, in the same way as a rubber band tightens and gains power when it is twisted. "Before, I wasn't using my body's lower half.

"This allows me to cock it (the bat), and get it through the ball, instead of just snapping at it."

Sizemore's ink has come from a little closer to his home in Virginia. Tom Robinson of the Virginia-Pilot spoke to him for a couple of columns this week.

Sizemore, being the opposite of Jackson in that his offense is trusted and his defense is what concerns fans. He told Robinson:

"Catch everything, be a vacuum out there," said Sizemore, who admits dismay over his 21 errors at Double-A and Triple-A last season. "If you make the great plays, that's great, too. But consistency, that's my goal this year."

As far as his work at the plate goes, Sizemore just wants to set the table by getting on base and hitting a lot of doubles, he said. Home runs are not his goal, so he won't be swinging for the fences.

Robinson wrote of Sizemore's game Saturday:

Playing the first five innings of Detroit's 9-3 victory, Sizemore roped a two-out RBI single off veteran Kevin Millwood, sprinted to score from second base and also ran well enough to beat a throw to first to foil a double play.

And at second base, Sizemore deftly turned a double play with a runner bearing down on him, the type of play on which he was slid into - and his left ankle shattered - in a fall league game last October.

Both of these rookies are pretty exciting to have in Detroit. Usually as fans we're looking for the next big pitcher to come up from the minors and show off his stuff. It's kind of exciting to have some position players stepping into roles for a change.

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