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Tigers spring training notes: Mark Lowe and Anibal Sanchez make adjustments

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Minor arm tweaks yielded big results for the pitchers, and JaCoby Jones vies for the center field role

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Atlanta Braves Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at all the stories circulating in Florida, here are the bits from the beat you might have missed this week.

Lowe and Sanchez tweak pitches, results are promising

Both Mark Lowe and Anibal Sanchez have been struggling in obvious ways since last season. This week, subtle adjustments seemed to help yield big rewards for both pitchers.

For Sanchez, it was a suggestion from pitching coach Rich Dubee about his arm slot. By making the minuscule change to his angle of delivery, Sanchez went through four innings on Wednesday’s game without giving up a run, and totaling five strikeouts against the Braves. Considering how tough his last outings had been, it must have come as a huge breath of fresh air for both Sanchez and the Tigers to see the improvement.

Sanchez gave credit to Dubee, saying, “He helped me a lot to put the ball down and that’s what we tried to do today. Everything was really good today and the pitching coach is working a lot. We need to keep working. Today was one step.”

It’s a step in the right direction.

In Lowe’s case, it was something catcher James McCann spotted while reviewing old footage of Lowe’s previous outings. McCann realized that Low was holding onto the ball longer than he used to, causing a slight delay in his delivery. When he made the adjustment to throw more quickly, he ended up with a scoreless inning.

Lowe said it’s a result he can both feel and see. “I can see it when the ball is jumping. It's got more life to it, so that tells me that I'm getting more extension and everything is syncing up the right way.” It’s too early to determine if such a minor adjustment could hold the key to all of Lowe’s troubles, but the results seem promising.

Ausmus talks about what he appreciates in catchers

Speaking of catchers, Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus discussed his two-man platoon earlier this week. With veteran catcher Alex Avila back in the mix, the Tigers are looking pretty well-set between him and James McCann. Ausmus said that when it comes to a man behind the plate, he values partnership over stats.

When asked about what young catchers need to do in order to advance, Ausmus said, “The value of a catcher that can work with pitchers -- that's more important than any offensive statistic.”

Avila has already established himself as a strong ally for the pitching staff, and James McCann is proving he wants to help his pitchers succeed, as evidenced by his commitment to helping Mark Lowe improve. For younger catchers like John Hicks and Miguel Gonzales — both of whom will play in Triple-A this season — or prospects like Grayson Grenier and Austin Green, it’s a goal to aspire to, beyond mere physical ability.

JaCoby Jones might play center field

Jones was not in the initial mix of names being suggested for the starting center field position. He’s young and inexperienced, making him an unlikely selection to start the year in Detroit. However with no other player jumping out as an obvious choice, Jones is doing everything he can to draw attention to himself in training.

He might be young — making it more appealing to start him in Toledo — but by making nearly effortless-looking catches in center and demonstrating improved plate discipline, Jones might make it harder for the Tigers to ignore his potential at the major league level.

When asked if Jones was in consideration, Brad Ausmus gave a coy response of, “He’s still in the mix.”

Time will tell how things play out for all these players within the next couple of weeks.