Outfielder Jacque Jones hit only five homers and drove in just 66 runs with the Cubs last season, but he says that was a fluke.
Duane Burleson / AP Enlarge
LAKELAND, Fla. - For much of the spring, Jacque Jones has been one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. It's been well-noted in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse.
Jones arrived at Tiger Town several days before the reporting date for position players and quickly made an impression on Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Jones is trying to revive a career that suffered a major slump last season. After hitting more than 23 home runs between 2004 and 2006, Jones had only five homers and 66 RBI last season in his second year with the Chicago Cubs. It was his lowest power output since reaching the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 1999.
But Jones said last year was nothing but a fluke.
"I am not changing a thing this year," Jones said. "I don't know what happened in Chicago, but I like this team and I like what it has a chance to do."
The Tigers aren't looking for Jones to make a major offensive impact. They already have a lineup that some are predicting could score more than 1,000 runs. Jones was brought in to provide solid defense in left field and add another bat and some speed to the already stoked lineup.
He also will be playing in a hitter-friendly home stadium with plenty of room in the gaps for Jones to use his speed. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said that Jones' speed was a key reason the Tigers traded for him.
"A lot of the doubles he hit last year at Wrigley Field will be triples in Detroit," Leyland said. "I like what he brings to the team and I like his enthusiasm."
Jones is used to batting near the top of the order, but he'll likely bat at the bottom with the Tigers this year. He doesn't mind as long as he gets the at-bats. He's played regularly since making his debut with the Twins in 1999, and expects to take the same role with the Tigers even if it means batting ninth in the lineup.
"I plan to be unselfish and do whatever it takes, and I don't care where I bat in the lineup," Jones said. "Everybody in this clubhouse doesn't care where we are on Oct. 1, it just matters where we are at the end of the World Series."
Jones' enthusiasm has been noticed by his new teammates. Outfielder Curtis Granderson said he isn't sure whether to believe the reports about Jones being the first to arrive and the last to leave.
"I hear how early he gets here, but I can't tell because I am never here as early," Granderson said. "He's always here, though."
Jones is expected to be used as the full-time left fielder and add some speed to the Tigers offense. Only Gary Sheffield and Granderson had more than 20 steals for the Tigers and Jones was held to six with the plodding Cubs.
The Cubs reached the postseason last year, but Jones said he was excited about a new beginning in Detroit where he thinks he can make a trip to the World Series for the first time.
"When I heard about this trade, I was so excited," Jones said. "This is a good group and I felt welcome right away. I don't mind batting at the bottom of the order and I will do what they ask. I am not a complainer. I just want to be playing after Oct. 1."
NOTES: Newcomer Dontrelle Willis said he and new third baseman Miguel Cabrera appreciate having a chance to win instead of playing for the Florida Marlins. "Miguel and I came up together and we've had a good ride," Willis said. "Because we played in Florida people don't understand how good Miguel really is." Leyland said he still doesn't expect catcher Vance Wilson to be ready for the start of the season, but that pitcher Fernando Rodney, is pitching without pain.