Bernard could spell Maybin for short term

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. – Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday that rookie center fielder Wynton Bernard may be a short-term option to start the season on the 25-man roster if injured Cameron Maybin isn’t ready.

Tigers non-roster invitee Wynton Bernard is playing center field and might be a temporary solution while Cameron Maybin recovers from a hairline fracture in his wrist.

“We’ve talked about it,” Ausmus said. “No decision has been made, but in the short-term, that’s why we’ve been talking about it — I think it’s something we should consider.”

Maybin fractured a bone in his left wrist last week and was expected to miss four to six weeks. He will have a second X-ray to track the healing next week and he is optimistic he will be ready to start the season.

If fact, he did baserunning drills Wednesday with special assistant Kirk Gibson.

But the Tigers still need to have a contingency plan in place in case he’s not ready. Tyler Collins is also a short-term option, though he has not taken any reps in center field.

“He will get out there at some point,” Ausmus said.

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Bernard has been getting most of the playing time this spring backing up Anthony Gose and he understands that opportunity may be knocking.

“I just try to take every day like it’s my last,” he said. “I try to prove myself every day. Since I got signed from the tryout camp (in 2014), it’s been wonderful because I’ve been able to play.”

He was the Most Valuable Player of the Class A Midwest League in 2014 and led all Double-A hitters with 161 hits last year. In two minor league seasons he’s produced 325 hits and 88 stolen bases.

He’s produced two hits in 13 at-bats this spring, but his speed has been on full display. He saved a couple of runs in a game last week with a diving catch in shallow center and Tuesday scored easily from first on a double.

“Long term, I think it’s in the best interest for him to play on a regular basis,” Ausmus said. “A lot of guys have speed, but you have to know how to use it. That’s part of the development process. Everyone thinks you have to develop hitting or pitching, but you need to develop base running and defense, too.”

Bernard is expected to spend most of the summer patrolling center field for Triple A Toledo. He will take whatever he can get.

“It’s the same as last year,” he said. “I just love to get into the games and get that experience. I am ready whenever my name is called.”