DETROIT -- The sample size for Austin Jackson's numbers are too small -- just four games' worth -- to try to determine with any authority whether the Tigers' leadoff man's hot start is a good streak of hitting everything hard, an adjustment that opponents need to work on their scouting report or a sign of a long-term growth. Still, there are trends in his favor, notably with two strikes.
More than half of Jackson's first 20 plate appearances have reached two-strike counts, including six full counts. Entering Wednesday, Jackson with 3-for-9 with two walks in two-strike counts, reaching base safely five out of 11 times with four strikeouts. He has only one strikeout on a full-count delivery.
Part of that comes from the mechanical changes he made in Spring Training to take away the big leg kick. Another part is a mental approach to not be too aggressive or too passive.
"Most of it's mental, I think," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's spread out a little bit. He's shortened up a little bit, but most of that's mental, I think."
Whether Jackson will drop to last year's levels is the question; he batted just .151 (51-for-337) with two strikes last year, including .221 (15-for-68) on full counts. He did, however, have more walks (33) than strikeouts (32) on 3-2 pitches.
"He's seeing the ball real good right now, and he's putting a good swing on it," Leyland said. "That's what he's doing. There's not a lot of rocket science to it. If you chase bad balls and you swing at bad balls outside the strike zone, you miss them. He's battling his tail off and he's fouling off some tough pitches, and then when they make a mistake, he's hit it. He's been fantastic."
Tigers set to designate Thomas for assignment
DETROIT -- After winning the Tigers' open rotation spot in Spring Training, there was no question left-hander Drew Smyly would make his Major League debut Thursday. The only question was who would be moved to make room on the 25-man roster.
President/general manager Dave Dombrowski announced Wednesday it would be outfielder Clete Thomas who will be designated for assignment Thursday. At that time, the Tigers will officially purchase Smyly's contract.
The Tigers have 10 days to decide whether to waive, release or trade Thomas. If a team claims him on waivers, it would have to place Thomas on its 25-man roster. Thomas has no Minor League options left, so he would have to clear waivers before the Tigers could send him to Triple-A Toledo.
Thomas has been in the organization since the Tigers drafted him out of Auburn in 2005. The 28-year-old played 102 games for Detroit in '09, racking up 310 plate appearances as a part-time outfielder and pinch-hitter, but a knee surgery the next spring cost him the bulk of the season. He made a comeback from microfracture surgery, but spent all of last year at Toledo.
Thomas made the Opening Day roster when the Tigers had the flexibility to carry one more position player than usual until they needed their fifth starter. Now that they needed Smyly, Thomas was the odd man out.
"We felt that we had enough outfielders at this time," Dombrowski said.
Along with Delmon Young, Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch, the Tigers feel they have strong backups in Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and -- if needed -- Ryan Raburn.
Dombrowski also said to expect two additional roster moves, the first coming Saturday when Adam Wilk will be recalled to start against the White Sox and the second when Brandon Inge finishes his rehab assignment.
In sickness or in health, Scherzer plans to start
DETROIT -- The illness spreading around the Tigers' clubhouse continues to wreak havoc, including a particularly nasty bout for Max Scherzer ahead of his next start. But sick or healthy, he plans on pitching Friday in Chicago.
"I am going to pitch Friday," Scherzer said Wednesday morning. "Being sick doesn't get you injured. If something could hurt my arm, I would be smart about it. But I didn't work hard all my life to get here and then miss a start because I was sick."
Scherzer said he has been dealing with a sinus infection, low energy, body aches and night sweats. However, he said illness played no role in his last start, when he gave up seven runs over 2 2/3 innings to the Red Sox on Sunday.
Scherzer was scheduled to throw his regular bullpen session Wednesday morning.
Ramon Santiago has had one of the worse cases of illness on the team. What began as a sinus infection in the final week of Spring Training led to strep throat in recent days, knocking him out of the starting lineup Tuesday. He was back in the lineup on Wednesday against the Rays.
Most of the clubhouse has had some sort of symptoms, including manager Jim Leyland.
"Most of it has been the general cold and allergies," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
Boesch appears to be picking up speed
DETROIT -- With four hits in his first 19 at-bats, Brennan Boesch hasn't gotten off to the breakout start he had the last two years. However, Tigers manager Jim Leyland dismissed any suggestions Wednesday that the right fielder was taking poor swings."I think his swing's been fine," Leyland said. "He just didn't get any hits. That's been going on for years. People don't get any hits, so people don't think they're swinging good. That's not necessarily true." Although Boesch owns a .211 batting average, the Tigers have faced Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Matt Moore -- four pitchers Leyland described as "nasty." Against those four, Boesch has struck out swinging once and has taken two called third strikes. He's putting the bat on the ball, and eventually, he'll break through, Boesch said. "The beginning of the season's different for everyone," Boesch said Tuesday. "Sometimes you start off hot and sometimes you don't. You just keep plugging away and the balls will fall." And for Boesch, that is starting to happen. After starting 0-for-9, Boesch is hitting .400 (4-for-10) in the past two games, including two hits off Moore in the Tigers' 5-2 win Tuesday.
Brandon Inge began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday night and went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout as the designated hitter. He's expected to start at second base for the Mud Hens on Wednesday and Thursday, both at home against Louisville.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday morning it's "too soon to tell" whether Doug Fister will be ready to return when he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list April 23. Fister, who left his April 7 start with a left rib muscle strain, continues to receive treatment to try to eliminate the soreness, but isn't doing any physical activity.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.