Almost three months to the day the Tigers said he would be shelved with lumbar spine inflammation, Jackson Jobe was back — pitching in a Florida Complex League game Saturday against the Blue Jays at Dunedin, Florida.
And pitching well: Two innings, six batters, no hits, no walks, two strikeouts, two groundouts.
It would rank as encouraging, even giddy, news for a Tigers camp still mostly aggrieved that the Tigers took Jobe, a prep pitcher, as the 2021 MLB Draft’s third overall player and not People’s Choice candidate, shortstop Marcelo Mayer, who has been dazzling on the Red Sox farm.
“He felt good after the outing, looked good, his stuff was good,” said Ryan Garko, who oversees development on the Tigers farm. “He’s been on a pretty long progression since March, but he’s been diligent about it.
“His body feels good. His arm looks good. And he threw strikes. A really positive first outing.”
Jobe, 20, is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound, right-handed starter who last season had a sweet introduction to high-A West Michigan (three starts, 1.15 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), all after an apprenticeship at low-A Lakeland.
It was thought Jobe in 2023 might return to West Michigan for a half-season, perhaps, ahead of a ticket to Double-A Erie.
Then, during spring camp, came the diagnosis. There was anxiety and ire among Tigers followers, even if doctors were more sanguine about Jobe’s future, believing three or so months of rest should put him back in gear, if not immediately on the mound.
His cameo Saturday suggested Jobe might be headed back to one of those Class A stops, perhaps soon, with Lakeland making sense as a next move in Jobe’s progression.
No timetables or venues are being offered by the Tigers. But the bosses are pleased.
“I think our medical staff in Lakeland did a great job with him,” said Garko, who didn’t get into specifics about Jobe’s Saturday velocity, or how his out-pitch slider might have behaved. “We always lean toward the conservative with our injured players.
“We follow doctors’ orders with Jackson, and with the Boras group’s good medical people (Jobe’s agent is well-known rep Scott Boras), who also agreed on a really good path, which we’ve followed to a ‘t.’
“He’ll do everything now that goes with a normal spring training. We’ll see how he feels. And if that’s all good, he’ll throw a bullpen Monday.”
How soon for Meadows?
He steadily, even quietly, is having a slick season at Triple-A Toledo.
Parker Meadows, 23, and a left-handed hitter the Tigers have been virtually willing through his time on the farm, had two doubles in Sunday’s game between the Mud Hens and Lehigh Valley, which pushed his batting average to .269, and his OPS to a sturdy .769.
Toss in nine home runs, as well as speed that makes him a top-shelf sprinter as much as a weapon in center field, and you have the earmarks of a player who is not far from Detroit.
That probably depends upon two events: An opening in Detroit’s outfield not now apparent, especially when regular center-field sentry Riley Greene is destined to return this summer.
Also, Meadows, a second-round pick by the Tigers in 2018, must refine that bat — especially when his 28% strikeout rate needs polishing.
But the .332 on-base percentage pairs with Meadows’ ability to set fire to basepaths, and track down drives across outfield acreage as broad and deep as Comerica Park’s tracts.
▶ Izaac Pacheco had two homers and two doubles in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday as a third baseman two years removed from his high-school halls hinted at a warm-up at West Michigan.
Pacheco’s batting average climbed back above the .200 mark. Coupled with his seven home runs and .650 OPS heading into Sunday’s game, the Tigers are sticking by their decision to keep at high-A a left-handed batter with serious upside.
▶ One to watch as the Florida Complex League showcases some of MLB’s youngest talent, in the Tigers’ case, on the back lots at TigerTown:
Anibal Salas, 17, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound switch-hitter from Venezuela signed in January by the Tigers for a heavy $1 million bonus.
Salas, in his first nine games for the Tigers, is batting .296, with one home run, a double, a .500 on-base average and .966 OPS.
His arm draws particular raves as the Tigers work to stock a system that has been light on international help, particularly on the position side.
Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and retired Detroit News sports reporter.