Tyler Collins makes his case for Tigers roster spot

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers catcher James McCann waits on the throw from left fielder Tyler Collins (not pictured) to tag out the Nationals’ Derrick Robinson during the ninth inning Tuesday in Lakeland, Florida.

Lakeland, Fla. — On Tuesday, the papers back in Detroit ran stories about Tigers manager Brad Ausmus making a case for taking two utility players — Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine — north.

Tyler Collins knows what that would mean for him — no fifth outfielder. He is in line to be the Tigers fifth outfielder.

So against the Nationals on Tuesday, Collins reacted to that news the only way he knows how — by playing the game to the best of his ability. He hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to cut the Nats' lead to 6-4.

Then, in the top of the ninth, he kept it a two-run margin by throwing out speedy Derrick Robinson at home plate from left field.

"In that situation, the home run was probably more important, but I like throwing people out," Collins said. "It's kind of fun."

Nothing is etched in stone with that 25th roster spot, so Collins, instead of worrying about it, is going to keep fighting for it.

"It's still spring," he said. "Whether you are in this situation or any other — you could be Miggy (Cabrera) or a non-roster guy, I've been on that side of it before. All it is, it's just getting ready for the season.

"If it's coming off the bench, then come off the bench and do the best you can."

Collins won the fifth outfield job out of spring training last year and was expected to platoon with Rajai Davis. But Davis was hot early and Collins didn't get many at-bats. He never did get into any kind of comfort level or rhythm at the plate.

He was sent down to Toledo to make room for J.D. Martinez and didn't come back until September.

"I know what to expect from it now," Collins said when asked if he was better prepared to handle a bench role. "They threw all the curveballs at me last year. So nothing is new. I know how to prepare myself to get ready to play."

Around the horn

… Right-hand reliever Al Alburquerque was on the list of pitchers who were supposed to throw an inning against the Nationals on Tuesday. Instead, he threw a live bullpen on one of the back fields. "Just the way it was scheduled," Ausmus said. "No hidden meaning there."

… Ausmus said Bruce Rondon's arm action and velocity held up well Tuesday. It was the first time since coming back from Tommy John surgery that he threw with less than two days of rest. Rondon pitched on Sunday in Jupiter. He allowed two hits but struck out two on Tuesday. "He threw some sliders, but his changeup was better today," Ausmus said. "He faced a couple of left-handed batters, that's probably why he threw the changeup."

…Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes played in the field for the first time since straining his quad last Thursday. He had to make a long run in the first inning, losing a ball in the high sky. "He had to test it early and he was good after that," Ausmus said. "That's a good sign. We are probably over the hump on that."

…Ian Kinsler returned after missing the weekend with a strained left shoulder. He hit a home run in the sixth. "After the home run I asked him how was your shoulder," Ausmus said. "He said, 'It was fine there.' "