Collins hits ground running in debut for Tigers

Collins hits ground running in debut for Tigers

DETROIT -- On Opening Day, Tyler Collins became the fifth player since 1979 to make his Major League debut as a pinch-runner and score a game-winning run on a walk-off hit. Among the players he joined was Cal Ripken Jr., who did the same for the Orioles in '81, and former Cardinals great Tommy Herr, who did so in St. Louis in '79.

In the second game of the season, the left-handed hitting Collins not only made his first Major League start against a left-handed starting pitcher, he batted second in front of Miguel Cabrera.

Needless to say, he has had an interesting start to his big league career.

"The hardest part for a young player is to kind of control the emotions and slow the game down in his mind," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but hopefully hitting in front of Miggy gets him the opportunity to hit a few more pitches."

Ausmus said Collins learned about his starting nod right after the season opener, which means he was celebrating his game-winning run while finding out about his starting assignment.

"He was probably sleepless," Ausmus said.

The starting nod against a lefty, especially batting second, can be traced to reverse splits for both Collins and the pitcher he faced. Left-handed hitters batted .327 (53-for-162) off Jason Vargas last season, and .263 off him the past five seasons, five points higher than righties have hit him in the same span.

At the same time, Collins raked against lefties last year at Double-A Erie, hitting them for a .289 average (41-for-142), 11 home runs and a .953 OPS, compared with a .219 average (71-for-324), 10 homers and a .676 OPS against righties.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.