They can say they want Andy Dirks to steal a few more bases.

They also can say they hope to coax a few more stolen bases out of other players, such as Omar Infante. But the real reason the Tigers are bringing Jeff Cox to spring training as a baserunning consultant is to reverse Austin Jackson's downward trend.

And it is a downward trend.

After stealing 27 bases as a rookie in 2010, Jackson stole 22 his second year. But last year, he stole only 12 in 21 attempts — and he's far too fast a runner to be stealing only a dozen bases.

That's why the Tigers called Cox — and probably would have considered someone else if he had turned them down.

"I'm not being critical, because I don't mean for it to be critical," manager Jim Leyland said Monday. "but with Jackson, it's been a confidence factor.

"What happens in general with players is that guys don't want to get thrown out. They don't want that embarrassment.

"That's just my opinion. I don't know if it's right or not. And in fairness to Austin, when you have guys like (Miguel) Cabrera and (Prince) Fielder coming up there, you have to be careful that you don't take yourself out of an inning.

"The combination of those things is all part of the equation. But there are times you want to take that gamble — which means he should have a better feel for it."

So Leyland would like Jackson to steal more bases?

"I would," he said. "That's basically what we are saying. The better way to put it is that I would like him to steal more important bases. I've always said that to steal a base when everybody knows you're going to try, that's when you are a base stealer."

From The Detroit News: