Detroit – The signing of left fielder Justin Upton had ramifications beyond owner Mike Ilitch’s tax bill.
Left fielder Tyler Collins went from perhaps platooning in left field to possibly spending more time at Triple-A Toledo. Anthony Gose went from perhaps being the starting left fielder to maybe backing up or platooning with Cameron Maybin in center field.
“It will have an impact on the other outfielders playing on a regular basis,” manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday. “As for Tyler, I’m sure he wasn’t ecstatic about the signing (of Upton). But I still think he’s got a chance to be a good Major League player. What happens coming out of spring training remains to be seen.”
As for center field, Ausmus said he isn’t making any snap decisions. Gose, who played in a career-high 140 games last season and hit .254 with a .321 on-base percentage and stole 23 bases, isn’t conceding anything.
“When I am out there, I have to perform,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve been in this situation. One thing you have to understand, it’s a business and, the other thing is, they want to win games. They are going to get who they feel they need to put the team in the best position.”
Maybin, whom the Tigers acquired from the Braves for left-handed pitchers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier, is coming off his most productive season since 2011. He hit .267 with 10 homers and 59 RBI. He also stole 23 bases.
“I won’t rush to judgment,” Ausmus said. “Cam and Gose both play center field; Gose has played the corner outfield spots more than Maybin. J.D. Martinez will play right field the majority of the time and Upton will play left field the majority of the time.
“We’ll just kind of see how center field plays out.”
Gose and Collins bat left-handed, which is a rare commodity for the Tigers. Maybin is a right-handed hitter.
“It’s not about Anthony Gose’s playing time,” Gose said. “It’s about winning games. If you look at it that way, you can’t get mad. If those guys help the team win, we all win.”
Praising Mr. I
Don’t think for a minute the Tigers players take owner Mike Ilitch’s generosity and passion to win for granted.
“It’s amazing,” Victor Martinez said. “We have to be so proud and honored to have the owner we have. We owe Mr. Ilitch a trophy. There is nobody in the whole city, nobody, that deserves more than him.”
Ilitch signed two players – Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton – to contracts in excess of $100 million. The Tigers are just the second franchise to give multiple $100 million deals in the same offseason.
“What he’s been doing, he’s been doing year after year,” Martinez said. “People say time is running out on this team or our window is closing. But he always does something to keep the hopes of the fans alive. What else can we ask? We are so fortunate.”
Miguel Cabrera echoed that.
“He always does something to improve the team,” Cabrera said. “I am so happy to be part of this organization and so happy to say Mr. I is our owner. He does everything to help us win.”
Around the horn
Where will Upton bat in the Tigers’ order? It’s still to be determined, but manager Brad Ausmus said it will be either second, fifth or sixth. “That decision doesn’t have to be made now,” he said.
… Ausmus said he wasn’t overly concerned about the Tigers’ right-handed heavy lineup. “Some of our guys’ splits aren’t that bad,” he said. “Miggy hits lefties better than righties, but he hits righties better than most right-handed hitters. The one time you might think about sticking a left-handed bat in there might be against a hard-throwing right-hander with a good slider.”
… Andrew Romine will change his number from 27 to 17. Zimmermann will wear No. 27.