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With Sluggers Behind, Jackson Has Running Dilemma

JEFF BERLINICKE,Associated Press

— Austin Jackson hit a career-best .300 as Detroit's leadoff hitter last year, but his stolen bases dropped from 22 to 12.

With Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez figuring to hit behind him this year, Jackson might not want to take off right away.

"It's a tough thing," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "There are times you want to run, but that also means you might open up a base. We have Torii Hunter behind him now, and we don't want to take the bat out of his hands. I'd like him to maintain what he did last year, but I would also like to see him get more steals."

Detroit brought in veteran major league coach Jeff Cox to work with Jackson on his running after the centerfielder succeeded on just over half of his 21 attempts last season.

"I didn't have a good year stealing bases," Jackson said. "I didn't make enough attempts. I want to start running this year. If I can get home from second after a steal, that is great. I am ready to run."

Leyland said Jackson needs to be more comfortable on the basepaths.

"It's a confidence factor," Leyland said. "He doesn't want to get thrown out, and when he knows he has hitters like Cabrera behind him he doesn't want to be embarrassed. We need more steals out of him."

Jackson had 16 homers and 66 RBIs in 137 games last season. With Hunter to his left, it will be tough for batters to find that gap in Comerica Park.

"I love the running part of the game," Jackson said. "Whether it is chasing down a fly ball or going around the bases, that's what I love the most."

Notes: RHP Rick Porcello is scheduled to start Detroit's spring training opener on Friday against Atlanta, and Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander are to follow the next two days. ... Leyland started practice two hours later than normal due to a cold snap that is crossing Florida. ... The Tigers agreed to 2013 contracts with LHP Duane Below, C Ramon Cabrera, LHP Darin Downs, 2B Jeff Kobernus, LHP Kyle Lobstein, RHP Luke Putkonen and RHP Bruce Rondon.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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