Cincinnati — Tyler Collins has an open audition with the Tigers the rest of the season. Collins has been in the starting lineup as the left fielder 13 times since being recalled from Triple A Toledo on July 31, including Monday's makeup game in Cincinnati against the Reds. The trade of Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets provided the opportunity.
What Collins does with this chance will be a factor in shaping his future with the team.
"I think he's got an opportunity to prove that he deserves to be at the big-league level on a regular basis," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He has some tools. He has some speed so he can cover some ground in the outfield. He can, theoretically, run the bases. He can score from first on a double. He has some power. I know he's only got three home runs this year but he does have some power."
Collins, like several of his teammates, is coming off a rough series against Texas. He went 2-of-13 in the series where the Rangers took three of four at Comerica Park, but has hit safely in seven of his last nine games and is batting .294 (20-of-68) in his last 20 games.
"I think the biggest hurdle, which he is in the process of jumping over, is he'd attack the game of baseball like a football player instead of letting the game come to him," Ausmus said. "He'd over-swing or over-run, or he'd overthrow the ball in the outfield. Sometimes letting the game come to you makes things easier.
That's something that only comes with more playing time.
Not complete strangers
The Tigers were facing Reds rookie right-hander Keyvius Sampson for the first time on Monday but it wasn't the first time Ausmus had seen Sampson. Ausmus was a special assistant of baseball operations for San Diego from 2011-13 while Sampson was in the Padres' organization.
Sampson was a fourth-round pick of the Padres in 2009 and pitched six seasons in their minor league system. He was the Padres minor leaguer of the year in 2011 and an Arizona Fall League All-Star in 2013, but San Diego designated him for assignment last December. The Reds claimed Sampson on waivers in January.
"He was really well-thought of and pitched very well for a number of seasons in the Padres' minor leagues," Ausmus said.
When the Tigers were in Cincinnati on June 18, Justin Verlander and Mike Leake were scheduled to be the starters before the game was rained out. Monday's makeup featured two rookies in Sampson and Buck Farmer of the Tigers who had combined for nine previous starts.
It was to be just the second start of the season for Verlander as he came back from a triceps injury. While Verlander is just 1-6 with a 3.86 ERA this season, he has found his form over the last six starts. Verlander has pitched 43 innings, going at least seven innings on five of the last six starts, and producing a 1.67 ERA. Leake is no longer with the Reds, having been traded to Giants on July 30.
Kevin Goheen is a freelance writer.