Collins making case for spot in outfield

Collins making case for spot in outfield

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Most of the Tigers' outfield prospects went across the street to Minor League camp earlier this week. Tyler Collins is still on the big league side.

The more he hits like he did on Saturday, the better chance he has to stick around -- possibly long enough to contend for a share of playing time in left field.

His manager isn't ruling it out.

"There's a little bit of danger in his bat," manager Brad Ausmus said on Saturday, after Collins fell a double shy of the cycle in a 3-for-5 performance in Detroit's 14-3 win over Houston. "You saw it today, his ability to drive the ball. He's certainly been talked about quite a bit."

In the Spring Training world of small sample sizes for reserve players, Collins' day boosted his numbers for the spring to a .286 average (8-for-28). Six of his eight hits have gone for extra bases -- two doubles, two triples, two home runs. After striking out in five of his first seven at-bats, he hasn't fanned since March 3.

It's a similarly good stretch to the way he started out last Spring Training. He carried it into his regular season at Double-A Erie, then seemingly fell into a big-swing approach, finishing with a .240 average (112-for-466), 21 home runs, 79 RBIs, 51 walks and 122 strikeouts.

His approach this spring is a little different.

"Last year, I kind of fought myself," Collins said. "I was trying to do too much -- and the worse I got, the more I tried. So I've just kind of matured as a player. I'm going to be able to make that adjustment better next time."

Some of that comes from the new coaching staff.

"I could fill up a whole other brain with information I've taken from these guys," Collins said. "Wally Joyner and Darnell Coles, they break everything down to where you don't even have to think twice about what they're saying, because it's so simplistic and makes so much sense. Everything they're spitting out, I'm trying to soak in."

Collins' second home run in six days was a no-doubt drive to right-center field in the seventh inning. His triple was an opposite-field gapper in the second inning that made it to the wall in left-center field off righty Lucas Harrell.

Collins singled up the middle off Harrell in the opening inning. He just missed another home run when he flew out to the right-field warning track in the third.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.