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Tyler Collins wonders: Is he part of Tigers’ future plans?

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – Tyler Collins is in the kind of limbo so many young players find themselves in as they try to carve out their niche in the big leagues.

Is he a legitimate part of the Tigers’ future plans in the outfield or is he a placeholder for the injured Andy Dirks and the developing Steven Moya?

“If they think I can help the club then they’ll keep me here,” said Collins, a sixth-round pick of the Tigers in 2011. “If they don’t, all I can do is play and help the team win.”

Know this: The Tigers like Collins very much. He made the team out of spring training and was set to platoon with Rajai Davis in left field before J.D. Martinez was acquired and started bashing home runs in Toledo at a Ruthian pace.

“Tyler does some things that you like,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He can play all three outfield positions, he’s a left-handed bat, he’s got some power and he runs pretty well.”

As to what Collins’ future holds in this organization, Ausmus said, “We don’t have to decide anything right now. A lot of things could happen before a decision has to be made. But the one thing that really stands out about him is his ability to drive the ball. Power is a tough thing to teach.

“I think J.D. Martinez is a perfect example of that. It’s tough to give up on power. I wouldn’t say Tyler has J.D.-type power, but he has the ability to drive the ball.”

He showed that at Toledo this year. In 526 at-bats, he had 18 home runs, 17 doubles, 62 RBI, 12 steals and 49 walks. But that was after a rough first two weeks with the Tigers. Playing sparingly (seven games), he went 2 for 14.

“I don’t know,” Collins said of his first stint in Detroit. “Just a small sample size. I mean, had it gone the other way, I don’t think it would have changed anything. J.D. was killing the ball. There was nothing I could do about that. It was just a small sample size and I didn’t get a chance to play my game.”

He’s had some moments since being recalled on Sept. 1, not the least was a monster home run into the centerfield bushes at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

“He was a little starry-eyed when he first came up; most young players are,” Ausmus said. “He probably never experienced playing part-time, so it was tough for him to get into a rhythm. The best decision was to let him go down and let him play on a regular basis. He’s not really a finished product. He’s still developing.”

His work at Toledo, especially in terms of the 49 walks, went a long way into keeping Collins in the team’s plans.

“Just working on it,” he said. “Just trying not to chase so many pitches out of the zone. Once I tightened that up, everything seems to fall into place. I have to make them throw me better pitches.”

Moya, at the point, is considered the right-fielder of the future for the Tigers. But as Ausmus said, “As much as Tyler is an unfinished product, Moya is even more of an unfinished product.”

Collins understands where he’s at right now in the organization’s depth chart.

“You can only control what you can control,” he said. “Moya is a great friend. He and I have played together, he’s a good guy and there is no animosity. If they think Moya can help, then he can help. It’s whatever they want to do.

“He’s going to be really good some day. But for me, I can only control what I can control.”

Dirks’ future has been clouded by missing the entire season and Ezequiel Carrera, a speedy left-handed hitter with less power, has not made the most of his opportunities to this point, as evidenced by Don Kelly starting in centerfield the last two games.

On top of that, Torii Hunter, who’s contract is up, isn’t expected to be re-signed.

So Collins still has time to secure a spot in the Tigers’ plans – especially if he keeps hitting balls in the bushes beyond centerfield walls.

“I don’t know if I can keep doing it like that,” he said, with a laugh.

Twitter @cmccosky