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04/23/10 2:40 AM ET

Jackson makes triumphant homecoming

Making a triumphant homecoming, Detroit outfielder Austin Jackson pulls into the Ballpark in Arlington as the embodiment of the prototypical modern ballplayer.

Jackson strikes out a lot, a record number of times in fact, but when he instead strikes the pitched ball, it usually lands safely somewhere. That rigs him out with some amazing numbers, as he and the rest of the Tigers get into a weekend series 34 miles from his Denton, Texas, birthplace.

What, you didn't know that Jackson hails from Texas? Hello: Austin?

Including Thursday night's 5-4 win over the Angels on the West Coast, Jackson has struck out in each of his first 15 games, already a Major League record at the start of a career. His 24 strikeouts lead the American League.

Yet, the 23-year-old outfielder, who was the prize in the Tigers' trade of Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, was also batting .308 in 61 at-bats. Do the math and he is a .488 hitter (20-for-41) when making contact.

So the first Detroit player to debut as the Opening Day center fielder in 71 years (Barney McCosky in 1939) has understandably blown hot-and-cold in his first three weeks as a big leaguer.

Hot: Sunday in Seattle, Jackson enjoyed his first career three-hit game. Cold: In the four ensuing games against the Angels, he fanned nine times in 15 at-bats.

And that's why his veteran manager doesn't exactly know what to expect from his young prospect this season, even if he expects big things in the future.

"I don't know what he's going to hit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "[I] saw [the other] night he's a young guy, struck out three times. I thought he progressed leaps and bounds [Tuesday] night. [He] made two great catches late, had a great at-bat, walked, had a big hit. That's good stuff.

"He's a young player, and I'm going to be patient. I know about young players. I've managed a lot of them. And if you get on an emotional roller coaster with young players, it's no good. You have to make up your mind that they're going to have some days when they look like Minor Leaguers. That's just the way it is. But what you've got in the long haul, I think this kid is a good-looking young prospect."

Jackson admits that he's still learning the ropes early this season, but the most important thing is to turn the page when he has a poor at-bat.

"It's definitely hard [to block it out]," Jackson said, "I know what's helped me is players coming up to me and calming me down a little bit, just giving me that confidence that you need at that time, just telling me to relax and don't worry about striking out or worry about the result."

Jackson won't be the only rookie taking the stage in Friday's contest. First baseman Justin Smoak is expected to make his much-anticipated Major League debut for the Rangers.

Smoak made it to The Show by literally smoking the ball at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The switch-hitter was hitting .300 with 10 runs scored, six doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in 15 games.

"Justin has been having really quality at-bats at Triple-A, and we just felt we could use more production out of that spot in the lineup," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We want to see if he can continue to have those high quality at-bats in the big leagues."

In the opener of this series, right-hander Rich Harden -- a late replacement for Scott Feldman, who was scratched and pushed back a day by a stomach virus -- hopes to keep the Tigers' rookie in check. Perhaps taking advantage of an overly emotional Jackson will take a big bite out of the offense standing in the way of a successful start to Texas' seven-game homestand against Detroit and the White Sox.

The Rangers will try to build on a victory at Boston in Thursday night's finale of a rough 3-6 road trip.

Max Scherzer makes that a tough objective. While with Arizona last season, Scherzer enjoyed one of his crispest games against the Rangers, an 8-2 victory on June 23 in which he threw strikes with 82 of his 119 pitches.

Tigers: Boesch to take injured Guillen's job

Left fielder Carlos Guillen strained his left hamstring rounding third base Thursday night and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The slugger, who is batting .311 in 61 at-bats this season, was replaced on the 25-man roster by Brennan Boesch, who is expected to make his Major League debut on Friday. Boesch was leading the International League with 15 RBIs, and was batting .352 with three home runs. ... The Detroit bullpen has a scoreless streak of 15 2/3 innings entering the series against the Rangers. ... Magglio Ordonez scored two runs during Thursday night's game to reach 1,000 for his career.

Rangers: Cruz finds success at DH

The only concession Nelson Cruz made Thursday to the troublesome right hamstring that had forced him out of the two prior games was to DH rather than play the outfield. He went 2-for-3, including the seventh-inning single that snapped a scoreless tie. ... C.J. Wilson was the first visiting left-hander to start a shutout in Fenway Park since Oakland's Brett Anderson went all the way on a two-hitter last July 6.

Worth noting

The Rangers are kicking off their Elvis Weekend with Friday's Elvis look-a-like contest. One of the judges? Elvis Andrus, of course. ... The Rangers did not have an extended spring game on Thursday, so Ian Kinsler (sprained right ankle) took batting practice and fielded a few grounders. The plan is for him to be used at designated hitter and lead off every inning in a game on Friday. ... Tigers reliever Zach Miner threw a successful side session Tuesday in Florida and is scheduled to throw again off the mound Friday. Miner, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow tendinitis, threw about 29 pitches over the course of an eight-minute session Tuesday at the team's Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.