Jupiter, Fla. — At the beginning of spring camp, the Tigers had a lone outfield shootout under way in center field. That was before right-fielder J.D. Martinez sprained his right foot, compounding the Tigers’ position mysteries.
Friday, replacement parts were determined in the form of platoons that will include rookie JaCoby Jones and Andrew Romine working as a center-field tandem, with Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins splitting time in right.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus made the announcements Friday evening, before the Tigers and Marlins met at Roger Dean Stadium in the final 24 hours of the 2017 Grapefruit League season.
“It’s got more speed,” Ausmus said of an outfield configuration that has one regular, Justin Upton, established in left. “That generally doesn’t hurt you.
“But we’re still going to miss J.D.’s bat.”
Martinez was moved to the 10-day disabled list Friday, making him eligible to leave the DL on April 9. Ausmus, however, stated the obvious Friday when he said, “He won’t come off on the ninth.”
The Tigers will try to get by for however long with their four-man, two-position shuffle, with Jones the most intriguing of all the rearranged pieces.
He is a 24-year-old former football player who can stride across yards of outfield turf in a hurry. He is a right-handed batter, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, with more power, perhaps, than is customary for a center fielder.
But he also is a rookie. Ausmus offers regular reminders there.
“He’s still learning, and he’s learning about himself, and he certainly hasn’t learned the league yet, so there’ll be some bumps,” Aumsus said of Jones, who has had a terrific Grapefruit League audition, batting .327. “But there are some days, because of his ability, he’ll look major-league.
“But Jones’ defense could be a huge asset at Comerica Park.”
The Tigers had hoped, ideally, to start Jones at Triple A Toledo and help a still-raw rookie ease his way back to Detroit.
“But we’re trying to win,” Ausmus said. “We’re going to put the lineup and defense out there that helps us win.”
Ausmus, for now, will go with conventional platoon deployments: Jones and Mahtook against left-handers, Romine and Collins against right-handers.
He might, if necessary, use Mahtook or Collins in center. But that’s not the plan, Ausmus said.
With their Martinez move, the Tigers settled Friday on their 25-man roster that will open the regular season Monday against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
They had earlier placed outfielder Steven Moya and relief pitcher Daniel Stumpf on waivers, which each player cleared.
The Tigers wrap up their 2017 pre-season with a noon Saturday rematch against the Marlins at Jupiter, Fla.