Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — It’s like a game show, this quest to determine who will play center field for the Tigers.
There’s a certain suspense, the anticipation of a surprise, as nearly a half-dozen options remain for a critical up-the-middle position less than a week before Opening Day.
Andrew Romine started in center for the Tigers in Monday’s mini-disaster at Champion Stadium, where the Braves beat up on the Tigers, 11-3, raking Tigers pitchers for 19 hits.
Romine was in center while Mikie Mahtook started in left. Tyler Collins was in right, while JaCoby Jones later replaced Romine, who had his share of work on a night when starter Daniel Norris was raked for some deep drives to center.
“He did fine out there,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Romine. “He moves fine after the ball.”
Alex Presley is another contender for a job that appears no closer to being settled.
While it’s not clear who will start in Monday’s opener against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, the Tigers will at least settle on a 25-man roster by the end of the week.
Ausmus said Monday the list would not necessarily be determined Thursday, the day before the team departs Lakeland for a pair of games against the Marlins ahead of the Tigers’ Saturday night flight to Chicago.
The Tigers had 11 hits in Monday’s tumble to the Braves — all of them singles.
Nick Castellanos had a pair of singles — as well as a deep drive to left field that might have been hurt by an in-blowing evening breeze — and is batting .377. Miguel Cabrera’s two singles bumped his Grapefruit League average to .391.
And for a man who apparently has no job, Omar Infante continues to behave as if he’s a Tigers regular.
Infante also had two singles Monday and is batting .351 as he showcases himself, to the Tigers and other clubs, in a bid at age 35 to get regular big-league work.
Among those still auditioning for bullpen jobs, Blaine Hardy, who by no means has a spot locked up, came through again Monday, pitching 12/3 innings of scoreless relief. His ERA for the Grapefruit League season is 3.97, one of the better numbers among Detroit’s back-end corps.
It’s still far from clear how Ausmus and general manager Al Avila will configure the Tigers’ relief gang.
Hardy would likely make it a trio of left-handers, which isn’t a conventional bullpen arrangement. But it’s unclear that the Tigers will follow anything terribly traditional as they decide on a final 12 pitchers, including a Tigers rotation that has yet to be announced, much less solidified.