Detroit — It was toward the end of manager Brad Ausmus’s 13-minute pregame news conference when he subtly dropped a major news bomb.
The topic had been Victor Martinez and whether his designated hitter spot be used to rotate younger players into the lineup in September.
“We could do a number of things in September,” Ausmus said. “We could put Nick in right field.”
Wait. What? Was he serious about moving third baseman Nick Castellanos to right field?
“Yeah,” he said. “He going to start working in right field and we will see how it goes. We’re not going to put him in a game — we’re weeks away from putting him in a game. But he’s going to start working with (outfield coach) Dave Clark, starting today.”
Turns out, Castellanos approached Ausmus and general manager Al Avila with the idea.
“I brought it up to them and said it was something I’d be willing to do if it made sense for them,” Castellanos said. “They were happy about it. So, I am going to start getting some work and start getting my feet wet out there.”
Castellanos played 51 games in right field at Double-A Erie in 2012. He made two errors in 101 chances. He played right and left field in the Arizona Fall League that year. In 2014 at Triple-A Erie, he played 130 games in left field, making three errors in 224 chances.
He also played nine games in left field for the Tigers in September that year.
But he’s been the Tigers every day third baseman the last four seasons.
“I’m used to it, man,” Castellanos said of moving around. “It’s been a defensive merry-go-round for me pretty much since I got drafted. Third base, right field, left field, back to third and now to right. I don’t care, you know.
“At the end of the day, I just want to win.”
The Tigers No. 3-rated prospect is third baseman Jeimer Candelario, and he’s knocking on the big-league door. Castellanos has come a long way defensively at third, but he’s still ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of range and defensive runs saved.
A position change was inevitable. First base might have been a more convenient move, but Miguel Cabrera is at least a year and maybe two away from being a full-time designated hitter.
“Playing outfield is not completely foreign to him,” Ausmus said. “But I think he’s more mature in his approach to defense than he was at that age.”
Castellanos, who has also worked hard tone his body and improve both his speed and agility, agreed that he’s better equipped to handle this move now than he was in 2012.
“I didn’t not like it,” he said of playing outfield. “But also, being 19 and told I had early work seven days a week — that sucked. It’s completely different now. I am much more of an adult than I was at 19. I understand how to go about my business more than I did when I was 19.
“It’s a good opportunity and I am excited about it.”
Ausmus said the goal was to get him into some games in right field by the end of the season, but there is no guarantee that will happen.
“All this means is he’s going to work out there right now,” he said. “Decisions will be made later … We will work with him and see. There is a pretty good chance if he puts in the work he’ll get put into a game.”
The other option, if the Tigers felt he needed more extensive training in right field, would be to wait until the spring training to make the transition. The first step toward making this work, though, is for Castellanos to commit to it.
Which he apparently has.
“Al and I talked to Nick yesterday about it, and I had talked to him about it before that,” Ausmus said. “He was all for it. He was actually gung-ho about it. He wants to do it. He’s feeling faster and he said if it made the organization better and made the team better, he was all for it.
“He said all the right things and he seems genuinely excited about it.”
He went through his initial instructional period with Clark during Tigers batting practice Saturday.
“This is something that will be beneficial to me if I can play more than one position,” Castellanos said. “Whatever they want to do in the future.”