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Competition on Tigers is out in left field

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With all the conversation surrounding the Tigers' open left-field spot -- and the players who have emerged as candidates -- manager Jim Leyland cautioned against allowing that decision to weigh too heavily.

"It's a small piece, but yet it's a big piece," Leyland said. "But whoever this guy is, it's not gonna be the guy that carries the team. The big guys carry the team. That's the way it's always been."

Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos -- both right-handed hitters who can complement lefties Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry and Brennan Boesch -- and Don Kelly are all possible candidates for the position.

Castellanos has impressed early this spring, having reached safely in nine of his last 11 plate appearances since he played all nine innings against the Phillies on Monday. Kelly is back with the club as a non-roster invitee after playing 119 and 113 games for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

"I know what Donny Kelly is," Leyland said. "I can close my eyes and I know what I've got in Donny Kelly. It's just a matter of whether he fits or not. Is he the best fit for our team? We'll see."

Leyland has said he feels comfortable with Dirks in left field most days, but would like to have a right-handed-hitting outfielder who can start when Detroit faces an especially tough southpaw. That's where Garcia, who impressed against lefties late last season, and Castellanos could come in.

"At the end of the day, this is pretty simple," Leyland said. "You can talk until the cows come home. I doubt very much that the guy that maybe comes up and helps in left field or is a utility guy, I doubt very much that is the difference whether the Tigers win or lose. This is all about the big guys. The big guys, that's your core. The big guys are gonna be the guys that carry you."

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