Collins' experience lands him fill-in gig

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — Knowing how the big league cosmos works means everything when it comes time to summon help from the farm.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus mentioned experience as a main reason Tyler Collins was recalled Tuesday from Triple A Toledo to replace Victor Martinez after the Tigers put their regular designated hitter on the disabled list due to persistent knee issues.

Collins batted sixth as the Tigers designated hitter in Tuesday night's game against the Brewers at Comerica Park, which went down as an 8-1 victory for Milwaukee.

Collins singled, walked and struck out twice in his 2015 Tigers debut.

"He's played that role here," Ausmus said, explaining why Collins, 24, was the fill-in choice over Daniel Fields and others once Martinez was shelved. "He can play all three outfield positions and he's a left-hand bat."

Collins had 18 games with the Tigers in 2014, batting .250, with one home run and a .655 OPS.

He had no real shot at making the club out of this year's spring camp and returned to Toledo where he batted .248 in 32 games, with no home runs, six doubles, and a .639 OPS.

"I really felt like I hit so many at-'em balls this spring," Collins said as he settled into a Tigers clubhouse he hadn't seen since last autumn. "It so often was a line-drive right at someone."

Collins is 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, and was a sixth-round pick by the Tigers in 2011 after he wrapped up his sophomore season at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

If there has been a plus to his early games in Toledo, Collins said, it has been 15 walks in those 32 games.

"I'm seeing the ball a little better," he said. "I'm getting my foot down, recognizing the ball earlier, and learning to lay off some pitches."

Tuesday night he was only upset about missing a couple of fastballs that contributed to his back-to-back whiffs.

"It felt like another game," said Collins, who isn't fazed by DH duties.

"When I'm playing the outfield I'm thinking about hitting, anyway," he said.

Ausmus said he plans to use any of his outfielders at the DH hole Victor Martinez earlier filled, with Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez, and even Yoenis Cespedes or Anthony Gose, getting a possible assignment there, along with Collins.

Rondon ready

Bruce Rondon will make a rehabilitation appearance Thursday at Triple A Toledo as a hefty right-handed reliever works his way back to the Tigers bullpen.

If all goes well Thursday, Ausmus said, Rondon will pitch again Sunday for the Mud Hens. Any reasonable progression during his minor league tune-ups could restore Rondon to Ausmus' back-end relief corps. And quickly.

Rondon has not pitched against big-league hitters since late March, during spring camp, when he developed biceps tendinitis. He missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Justin Verlander is not as advanced as Rondon but could be on the verge of his own rehab sojourn.

Verlander this week will throw an "up-and-down" bullpen — interludes designed to increase his stamina as he builds strength lost since he moved to the disabled list in late March with a strained triceps.

On the uptick

Ausmus said Nick Castellanos is making progress in his and the team's bid to expand the third baseman's range.

"I still think Nick's first step is getting better," Ausmus said. "I was mentioning that to Omar Vizquel during last night's game."

Vizquel, the Tigers infield coach, has been working with Castellanos on his first-step launch, which has improved noticeably, particularly as he cuts off ground balls to his left that last season eluded him.

Castellanos is approaching 1-1/2 seasons as the Tigers' uninterrupted third baseman. It's the same amount of time Castellanos had spent apprenticing in the outfield in the Tigers farm system when the club in 2012 decided a position shift was in order.

But that was at a time Miguel Cabrera was locked in as the Tigers' long-term third baseman. And that status changed, as did Castellanos' position detour, when Prince Fielder was shipped to the Rangers in December of 2013.

Justin's run

Those who enjoy jogging and who follow Justin Verlander's efforts, off the field as well as on it, may know of a 9-kilometer run set for Monday, which is Memorial day, in downtown Detroit.

Home plate at Comerica Park will be the most famous landmark crossed along the 9-kilometer course's path. And all proceeds from the event will go to Verlander's personal charitable organization, Wins for Warriors, which assists programs aimed at military veterans and their families, especially those who deal with post-traumatic stress, brain injuries, or depression.

Registration fee is $25 per person, or $35 for those who wish also to absorb the participation fee for a veteran. For more information, consult