DETROIT -- Which is the real Ezequiel Carrera?
Is it the Minor League free-agent find who nearly made the Tigers' roster out of Spring Training, made multiple highlight catches and tore up International League pitching all season for a .307 average, .809 OPS and 43 stolen bases?
Is it the former Indians prospect who struggled through parts of two seasons in Cleveland -- he owns a .251 average (92-for-366), .306 on-base percentage and .644 OPS for his three-year Major League career -- and once reportedly lost a ball in the sun while his sunglasses were perched on his cap?
The Tigers, with a void in center field after trading Austin Jackson to Seattle, are about to find out about the 27-year-old Carrera, though Rajai Davis earned the first start in center in the post-Jackson era Friday night against Rockies left-hander Franklin Morales.
Manager Brad Ausmus hesitated to say he'd use Davis, who was a center fielder coming up through the minors, and Carrera in a strict lefty-righty platoon. How Davis -- a .250 hitter off righties this year compared to .373 off lefties -- performs could have a large impact on Carrera's playing time, Ausmus said.
Even if Davis earns the bulk of the time, the Tigers will be looking for something out of Carrera, a left-handed hitter who batted .315 with a .401 on-base percentage against Triple-A right-handers this season. Anything like what he did in Spring Training would work well.
"He was originally talked about in Spring Training, possibly making the team," Ausmus said. "And then there was the situation where we were debating at the time we called up J.D. Martinez, whether to call Carrera up instead, the reason being we needed a left-handed bat. But we decided we needed a little bit of thump."
Carrera, for his part, was not as happy with his camp, saying he didn't have a good spring and tried to refocus in Toledo.
Either way, he fared well. Once Martinez heated up to go with Davis, Jackson and Torii Hunter, "there just wasn't a spot for him," Ausmus said.
Davis and Carrera have similar styles, making things happen with their speed. The key to holding down center field is for their instincts to serve them as well.
"Jackson's a very good center fielder," Ausmus said. "I think you'll be surprised how good Carrera is in center field when he's there. We lost a little bit defensively probably, overall, and a little bit offensively, especially the way Jackson's swinging the bat. But you don't get something for nothing, and you certainly don't get David Price for nothing."
For now, the plan for Davis and Carrera is to bat them up top, with Ian Kinsler batting second and Hunter staying in the middle of the lineup.