Tigers manager Brad Ausmus reiterated Thursday that center field remains an open competition, though a new player was added to the mix (Mikie Mahtook, acquired from the Rays Wednesday).
“We don’t know who is going to play center field,” he said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be one guy or two guys or maybe three guys. We just don’t know. We have to see how it plays out.”
Mahtook, JaCoby Jones and Tyler Collins are the primary combatants for two of the spots. If there is a third center fielder in the rotation, it would be super utilityman Andrew Romine.
Collins, who has the advantage of hitting left-handed and can play all three outfield positions, might have a leg up on the competition. But don’t try telling him that.
“I see it as the same way it’s been every year,” he said. “I am not sitting in any different position than I ever have been. I am excited, sure. I’ve gained experience. I am comfortable and I am established.
“I’m just going to go play.”
Collins has spent the offseason working on his flexibility, especially in his lower body, and mobility — obviously with an eye toward better covering the vast expanse of center field at Comerica Park.
“I focused a lot on my hips and ankles, really getting them strong again,” he said. “It helps with mobility, speed, quickness – just total physical ability. I feel like I am running better than I ever have.”
Finally, after several years of being a finalist and losing out on the award, Ian Kinsler won his first Gold Glove last season.
“It’s a good-looking trophy,” he said. “Nice to have one in your home. But it’s definitely validation. I worked really hard at second base, it’s a position I picked up later, when I was in Triple-A and it took me a little time to get comfortable there.”
He’s lost out to Dustin Pedrioa and Jose Altuve in recent years.
“I feel like I’ve played real good defense the last three years and had an opportunity to win it,” he said. “It was nice to get that phone call.”
The Tigers caravan was short three veterans. Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez and Francisco Rodriguez were excused due to either travel or scheduling issues.