During Saturday’s spring training outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones dove for a ball in the sixth inning and appeared to collide with the outfield wall. As a result of the play, he sprained his left shoulder.
Jones appeared to know right away he was injured, making a beeline for the clubhouse with one of the team’s athletic trainers following the play.
There is no word on the severity of the injury or how long Jones might be out as a result, but manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters it was very likely that Jones would begin the season on the 15-day injured list.
With Jones out, the Tigers will likely turn to Mikie Mahtook and Niko Goodrum in center field. Mahtook was the team’s primary center fielder in 2017, while Goodrum played all over the diamond in 2018. Though Mahtook is certainly the better option defensively — the last time Goodrum played center was in Triple-A ball two years ago — the Tigers want to get Goodrum’s bat in the lineup on a daily basis.
“Niko is going to play somewhere every day,” [Gardenhire] said. “It might be center field. Mahtook is more refined, more pronounced in center field. But Niko can run it down. He hasn’t had a lot of reps in center field but I’m not afraid to use him there.
”It’s just not the perfect scenario for him to go out there every day in center field. We want to be able to use him at first base and DH, all over the field. We are looking at all our options to cover us in a lot of different places.”
The Tigers have a few different options available to replace Jones on the 25-man roster, but top prospect Daz Cameron will not be one of them, according to Gardenhire. Dustin Peterson and Victor Reyes are the only other outfielders on the 40-man roster. Recently optioned infielder Ronny Rodriguez also made a few appearances in the outfield last year for the Tigers, and Brandon Dixon played some outfield for the Cincinnati Reds in 2018. Prospect Jake Robson has also been mentioned (mostly by fans excited to see a new player make their MLB debut), but the Tigers would need to make room on the 40-man roster to call him up.