Gose, Maybin set for spring duel over center field

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Cameron Maybin

Lakeland, Fla. – No managerial coin-flips are expected as Brad Ausmus decides which of his center fielders, Anthony Gose and Cameron Maybin, gets the longer shifts and starts in 2016.

Ausmus will decide. In time. It’s simply that he hasn’t yet been able to study Maybin to determine how one stacks up against the other.

“I’ve seen much more of Anthony Gose than Cameron Maybin,” Ausmus said Sunday as the Tigers began a long morning of workouts a day before they open their preseason schedule, against Florida Southern, at Marchant Stadium on Monday.

“Gose has one of the strongest arms in the game. Maybin has a little more power. He’s a home-run threat, although I wouldn’t say a home-run hitter. I don’t know if both will hit in the same spot (batting order).

“I’m not gonna answer that soon.”

Even after Ausmus takes a long look at both outfielders during the Grapefruit League tussles, It’s expected Gose will get the percentage of starts in center.

His left-handed bat, against heavily right-handed rotations, would be an easy advantage for him and for the Tigers. Neither player has been a weapon in past seasons, with Maybin carrying a career batting average of .251 and an OPS of .678. Gose, who at 25 is three years younger than Maybin, last year batted .254 with a .688 OPS.

Anthony Gose

Ausmus, though, for now can play it safe. Not much upside to saying either man has an edge as Grapefruit League auditions get rolling.

Maybin, of course, returned to the Tigers in November in a trade with the Braves. At that time he was the Tigers’ choice for left field in 2016. Plans changed in January when Justin Upton signed a long and expensive contract.

Maybin suddenly became the starter who wasn’t a starter – unless, of course, he shows during March that he intends to supplant Gose as Ausmus’ more regular choice.

The manager hopes Maybin and Gose combine for a tougher decision – a coin flip between two deserving starters? – a month from now when the team moves into final-stage rehearsals for the April 5 opener against the Marlins at Miami.

It’s one of the few stories of even remote position intrigue in a Tigers camp where jobs are fairly definitive.

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Sanchez mending

The Tigers are feeling better about Anibal Sanchez’s sore shoulder. He will throw lightly Monday as he returns to a normal routine. Or, so the Tigers hope.

“Sanchez feels good,” Ausmus said. “He’s on track.”

Not feeling so good is right-handed prospect Montreal Robertson. He injured his right (throwing) shoulder during a Saturday weight-training session. He will have tests Monday to determine if any undue damage was sustained.

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Games, please

No one is complaining that practice drills are giving way to actual games as part of the Florida routine.

Today’s traditional preseason opener against Florida Southern at least changes the pace of what invariably turns into the most tedious part of spring camp: the closing days of full-squad practices.

“The guys get tired of running drills and batting practice without game competition,” Ausmus said.

Nothing a team can do in camp, the manager conceded, can substitute for games against big-league clubs, particularly when it comes to pitchers and hitters.

“Pitchers aren’t comfortable facing their own batters,” Ausmus said. “They’re worried about hitting ’em.”

Otherwise, Ausmus has no misgivings. Not about the way those 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (most days) workouts played out.

“The last few days have been really good,” he said. “Real crisp.”

The Tigers begin their Grapefruit League tangles Tuesday against the Pirates at Marchant Stadium.

Cameo at-bats

As has been the tradition against Florida Southern, a Lakeland-based university that typically brings a quality college team to Marchant, the Tigers will start most of their regulars against the Moccasins. But appearances will be short: one at-bat.

Ausmus, in fact, must be careful in the preseason’s early days. The Tigers have split-squad games Wednesday against the Pirates at Bradenton, and against the Yankees at Tampa, and with players slowly building up endurance, the Tigers skipper will be summoning extra bodies from the team’s minor-league camp.