Tigers' Collins enjoying new lease on life, career

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, left, said Tyler Collins is more focused and mature compared to the past three seasons.

Detroit – Manager Brad Ausmus doesn’t know what’s caused the change in Tyler Collins, but whatever it was, he’s loving the results.

“Whatever the root source is, he’s much more calm this year,” Ausmus said. “He has been since Day 1 of spring training. Little more reserved, less boisterous, more focused. More mature.”

Ausmus put extra emphasis on the last sentence. Collins will be 27 in June. After being toggled between Detroit and Toledo the three previous seasons, this is shaping up to be his first full season in the big leagues.

This is not the same impetuous kid who flipped off a booing crowd at Comerica Park last season. This is not the same guy who sometimes acted like baseball was getting in the way of his social life.

He was asked about his experiences playing winter ball in Australia in his first pro season in 2011.

“Andy Graham was our manager at Connecticut at the time, and obviously, he’s a native Aussie,” Collins said. “He said they wanted to me to keep playing, so I flew halfway across the world.”

Collins hit .298 in 43 games that winter, with 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 22 RBIs. But that’s not what he took out of the experience back then.

“To be honest with you, I wasn’t really that focused on the baseball,” he said. “It was a good time.”

There are still some rough edges on him, but when you see Collins’ daily preparation, see the work he puts in – his is a professional’s regimen.

He’s gone from being mostly a bull in a china shop to only occasionally lapsing back to his over-aggressive ways – like when he ran over right fielder Jim Adduci on a shallow fly ball last week.

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“I am always going to play hard,” Collins said. “You are never going to take that out of me. But it’s just understanding situations and scenarios, when you need to make a throw and when you just need to hit the cut-off guy.”

It’s more than that.

It’s knowing when to relax and have fun and when to buckle down and work. It’s knowing when you can goof around and when it’s time to be serious. It’s about knowing the value of a single or a walk and not trying to hit every pitch 400-plus feet – and knowing that if you just stay within yourself, the 400-foot bombs will happen, as it did Monday night against the Indians.

“My preparation is right now,” he said. “Where before I thought it was right, but it wasn’t. I just did some re-evaluating. Things are going well now.”

Re-evaluating what? Lifestyle, nutrition, workout regimen?

“It’s more about routine, as far as getting prepared for the day and just my practicing,” Collins said. “It started to click.”

Is it a change of mindset or a physical change?

“It’s focusing on the process and not getting caught up in the results,” he said. “As long as the process is right and it’s consistent, you are going to give yourself the best opportunity to produce.

“It’s just not worrying about the results and just making sure I am taking care of business in here correctly.”

It was clear there was something different about Collins during spring training. He came in with essentially a new body. The bulky football body was gone. In its place was a lean, tapered and still well-muscled upper body and the same powerful fullback’s legs.

Ausmus wondered about the root source of this transformation – her name is Carly Tyson. She is Collins’ fiancé and she is responsible for his vastly improved diet, his new physique and, to a large degree, his inner peace.

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“It’s weird how the mind works,” Collins said. “You can be so good in so many areas and feel empty and incomplete, and you don’t know what it is. Until you have that full balance in your life, you don’t know what you are missing. I feel much more balanced now than I have in the past.”

Asked if it’s helped him on the field, he said, “I don’t think it hurts me.”

No, it hasn’t appeared to. Entering play Tuesday, Collins is hitting .304 with a .360 on-base percentage, .435 slugging and .795 OPS – playing first in a platoon in right field and recently in center field.

“He’s having much better at-bats,” Ausmus said. “He’s not chasing out of the zone as much. He doesn’t look like he’s trying to add on when he swings the bat. He’s not trying to hit the ball an extra 50 feet. He’s letting the pitcher’s velocity provide the power, and he’s just taking relatively consistent swings on pitches that he can hit as opposed to trying to generate power, and with that generation, sometimes chasing pitches out of the zone.”

Collins has hit more balls to the opposite field and has taken six walks, which has accounted for the raised on-base percentage.

“I’d say it’s a byproduct of the process,” he said. “It’s not like I am deliberately hitting the ball the other way. But if my swing is going to allow me to take that pitch the other way, yeah, we are going to run with it.”

It’s just been 20 games and Collins will be the first to say that. He still considers himself a work in progress, which is another sign of his maturity.

“With my process, yes, I am pleased,” he said. “My process is good right now. Aside from the results, I am in a good place.”

Twitter: @cmccosky