The Detroit Tigers’ battle for center field might be over before it started. Tyler Collins, one of the leading candidates to head north with the club in April, will be limited over the next 10-14 days with a lat muscle strain. Collins will still be able to hit and run, but cannot throw, significantly limiting his defensive value in the near future. The Tigers will primarily use him as a designated hitter and pinch runner while his injury heals.
Collins’ injury isn’t serious, but it could have significant ramifications for the Opening Day roster. His at-bats will likely be limited due to the injury, though he is a prime candidate to serve as the team’s DH if Victor Martinez does not travel to road games. He will also miss valuable reps in center field, where he is still rather green (particularly when it comes to working with corner outfielders Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez).
In the meantime, Mikie Mahtook and Anthony Gose look to get the lion’s share of playing time in center. Gose, a non-roster invite after he was designated for assignment during the offseason, will start in center field in the Tigers’ Grapefruit League opener on Friday. Mahtook started in center against Florida Southern on Thursday.
Also working against Collins is the roster crunch the Tigers are facing this spring. They currently have three position players on the 40-man roster fresh out of minor league options in Collins, outfielder Steven Moya, and infielder Dixon Machado. Collins and Machado looked to be the frontrunners to claim the final two bench spots heading into camp, but Moya may gain ground if Collins is limited for longer than expected. The lanky Moya doesn’t have the polish or versatility Collins does, but his 80-grade raw power could be tough to waive as Opening Day draws nearer.
In other news, third baseman Nick Castellanos was also scratched from the Tigers’ lineup on Friday due to illness. Omar Infante will start in his place at third base.