Tigers cut Holaday, Collins; McCann wins No. 2 catcher job
Lakeland, Fla. — Barring a trade or injury, the Tigers positional player roster is set.
Manager Brad Ausmus notified catcher Bryan Holaday and outfielder Tyler Collins Monday morning that they had been assigned to Triple-A Toledo.
That meant that James McCann will be the back-up catcher and two utility players — Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine — will be on the Opening Day roster.
"Baseball," manager Brad Ausmus said when asked the deciding factors in making the cuts. "We are trying to have the best baseball team we can. And I feel like McCann makes us a better team. But I will say I think Bryan Holaday is a big league catcher, as well. We just can't keep three catchers."
Telling Holaday he was sent down was especially hard for Ausmus.
"I had a previous relationship with him in a sense that he was here all last year," he said. "He was a very important part of our team and a very important part of our clubhouse. He was well-liked by everyone."
Holaday hit .200 (5-for-25) this spring with one homer and six RBI while McCann was at .371 (13-for-35) with two RBI going into Monday's game.
Collins hit .234 (11-for-47) while Perez was at .275 (14-for-51) and Romine .190 (8-for-42).
Ausmus would not commit to platooning McCann and starter Alex Avila, but that's probably how it's going to look early in the season.
"I would expect Alex to get more playing time going into the season," Ausmus said. "But that could change. McCann will see action against left-handed pitcher,s and he'll have to see some right-handed pitchers, as well, just because he couldn't sit on the bench that long."
Ausmus said Holaday would start the season as the starting catcher at Toledo, but the organization would have their eyes open for him regarding openings at the big league level.
"I'm sure we'd be open to anything," Ausmus said. "If somebody called and said they wanted to put Bryan Holaday in the big leagues, we'd have to listen for Bryan's sake. But he will start in Toledo and should something happen or something change regarding our catching situation, he'd be the answer."
Holaday, Ausmus said, was understandably upset by the news, but he handled it "professionally and calmly."
"One thing about Doc, he's as hard a worker as there is," Ausmus said. "He will not let this set him back. It'll be a bump in the road and he will go to the ballpark every day with the same positive attitude he did with us last year. He'll work his tail off to get back. And I would be surprised if he wasn't back with us at some point this year."
The writing had been on the wall for Collins for a couple of weeks. Ausmus has said repeatedly that, because of the way the Tigers are structured, pinch-runners and defensive replacements were more important bench pieces than pinch-hitters.
Collins, as the fifth outfielder, would have been used mostly as a left-handed pinch hitter.
"Tyler understood the logic behind it, just from the angle that he wouldn't be used very much," Ausmus said. "Based on our lineup and with four outfielders ahead of him, he understood that sitting on the bench and getting one or two at-bats a week wouldn't be good for him. It will be better for him to play every day.
"If something happens to one of our four outfielders, he can come up and fill that hole."
The Tigers also sent first basemen Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake, third baseman Jefry Marte, outfielder Jordan Krizan and catcher Manny Pina to the minor league camp. Infielder Josh Wilson is the only other position player remaining who isn't expected to be on the 25-man roster.
Lennerton will most likely be the starting first baseman at Toledo. Krizan will be expanding his duties — playing second, third and first, as well as corner outfield.
"Krizan is one of those guys who opened the coaches' eyes," Ausmus said. "We didn't know much about him and everyone loved the way he swings the bat. He's going to be put in a utility role. With his bat and ability to play multiple positions, he could be a guy like (Pittsburgh's) Josh Harrison. He doesn't have his speed, but he could be like Harrison was at Pittsburgh, move him all over the place just to get his bat in the lineup."
The last bit of business in terms of reducing the roster to 25 involves the bullpen. Assuming Wilson will be sent to Toledo, three pitchers need to be trimmed.
On the bubble are Bruce Rondon, Angel Nesbitt, Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol and Kyle Ryan.