Via the Detroit Free Press:
Austin Jackson’s smile stretched from here to Kansas City.
He had just left the workout room after Saturday’s game, and a reporter had told him, “Jim Leyland said that today’s lineup will be the Opening Day lineup. That means you’ll be starting the season and your career when you step in to face Zack Greinke.”
Jackson, 23, was asked to put into words the smile he unfurled when he pondered leading off his career by leading off the season.
“It’s one of those things you dreamt about forever,” he said.
Jackson, the one position player obtained in the Curtis Granderson trade, will succeed Granderson at leadoff and in centerfield.
“I took the trade as motivation,” Jackson said Saturday. “Whether they (the Yankees) traded me because they didn’t think I’d be ready or they wanted Curtis, whatever the reason might be, I took it as an opportunity.
“I started to train a lot harder because I knew that if I got this opportunity, I was going to take advantage of it,” Jackson said. “I started getting more serious about getting up early and working out. I started eating a lot of better foods to have energy throughout the day. I cut out a lot of fast food. I was in the batting cage a lot more.
“I studied tape of a lot of good hitters: Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Alex Rodriguez and a lot of Derek Jeter.
“I know I’m not going to hit like them, but it’s good to see they all get to a good hitting position. That was the main thing, seeing that they all have similarities when they hit.”
Spring games indicate that Jackson, a right-handed hitter, has begun to solve his strikeout problem. He fanned once every four at-bats last season in Triple-A. He has struck out once every seven at-bats this spring.
“He hasn’t swung at bad balls,” Leyland said.
That’s just one way Jackson has impressed the manager.
“He’s a very bright kid,” Leyland said. “He’s made a wonderful impression.”
“Is he going to struggle? Yes,” Leyland said. “He’s going to struggle some like all players do, particularly young ones.
“He’s the Opening Day centerfielder, and he’s going to lead off, and he’s going to get a good opportunity to break in. I feel real good about it. I’m very impressed. I like him a lot.”
Could the Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson swap go down in history as Brian Cashman’s version of Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps? At times, I still find myself having that vibe.