Tyler Collins: Hitting demons took over in ‘my own head’

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tyler Collins

News he had not expected to hear came late Saturday night inside a tight visiting manager’s office at Guaranteed Rate Field, where the White Sox play their home games.

The Tigers had just wrapped up a doubleheader in which Tyler Collins played only in the first game, a 3-0 Detroit loss. An outfielder whose May experience had turned increasingly brutal, struck out three times and walked once.

In that cramped office late Saturday sat manager Brad Ausmus, assistant general manager David Chadd, as well as Dave Littlefield, vice president of player development.

“As you’d expect, any Brad Ausmus conversations are very direct,” Collins told The Detroit News during a Tuesday phone conversation. “All he said was they wanted to make a change.

“To be honest, I was hitting .200. We all know I’m capable of doing more. I was just having a rough month. You really can’t take it personally.”

Collins returned to the team’s downtown Chicago hotel and to his girlfriend, Carly. The next morning, he and Carly boarded a plane to Detroit. His job as a big-leaguer had at least temporarily crashed.

He was being designated for assignment (DFA), meaning the Tigers have seven days (reduced from 10 under the old players-owners contract) to either trade Collins, or lose him on waivers to another club. If he clears waivers, he can be returned to the minors, which in this case figures to be Triple A Toledo.

Collins was out of minor-league options in 2017 and thus needed either to be kept on the active roster or DFA’d, as it is known. Collins was on the during spring camp, but the Tigers had injury holes due to J.D. Martinez’s sprained foot and, later, because of JaCoby Jones’ shelving when he was hit in the face with a pitch.

Collins stuck. And through April, all was well: .292 batting average in 19 games, a home run, three doubles, a .343 on-base percentage.

But his May became one of those hideous interludes big-league hitters can experience in excruciating, fan-infuriating ways: .108 batting average in 18 games, 31 strikeouts in 65 official at-bats, with 11 walks the only enduring plus.

They were numbers the Tigers no longer could accommodate.

“I don’t know, man, it all came from within my own head,” Collins said, trying to explain his May nosedive. “But it’s not like anyone in the history of the earth hasn’t had a bad month. We all know I can hit.”

In fact, Collins has always been somewhat marginal as roster evaluations go. He turns 27 next week and has lukewarm career numbers: 174 games, .239 batting average, .687 OPS, with 13 home runs. But because he brings at least moderate power to the plate, and because he technically can play three outfield positions, Collins had been viewed by the Tigers as a player who needed to be retained. At least until there were no options.

Saturday became a team’s limit as far as carrying him on an active roster.

Tyler Collins

Collins says he isn’t sure what’s ahead. He was going to speak with his agent later Tuesday to see if any interest from any club might have been detected.

He understands his next move could be to Toledo should another team not bite, which is probably a longshot when that team would need to add him to its 25-man roster.

“I want to be prepared for whatever,” Collins said. “After evaluating my options, I’ll be prepared for anything. There’s no point in stressing myself out now.”

Collins has decided his best remedy is a personal creed, built largely, if not entirely, on faith.

It explained why he and Carly Tuesday morning stepped from their residence in Royal Oak with a focus on happier thoughts.

“I’m with my girlfriend and we’re going to take a walk on this beautiful, sunny day,” Collins said. “Honestly, we feel like we’re not respecting this beautiful planet God has designed for us if I’m sitting in a room, moping.

“It sucks, not to be with those guys,” he said of his Tigers teammates who are in Kansas City for a three-game series. “I’ve spent my entire career with this team.

“But I understand one door has to close for one to open.”

Call it the philosophical approach. Collins through his years with the Tigers, and through a turbulent time a year ago when he over-reacted to crowd heckling, raised two fingers to his tormentors, and got a quick ticket to Toledo, says he’ll live with his flaws, marshal his strength, and not blame others.

“I take pride in that,” he said Tuesday. “It’s fun what a little faith in the good Lord will do for you right now.”

Twitter @Lynn_Henning