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Collins adds lefty bat with experience in bigs

Outfielder called up from Triple-A with V-Mart landing on disabled list

DETROIT -- Tyler Collins went third-person upon his return to the Tigers on Tuesday afternoon. But that person wasn't Victor Martinez. He knows better than to try to fill that role.

"I'm not coming to fill in for Victor Martinez," Collins said. "I'm just coming to play Tyler Collins' game and try to help the team win."

That's what the Tigers were seeking when they made the decision on a callup to fill Martinez's roster spot while the designated hitter is on the disabled list. Detroit had a few different left-handed-hitting outfielders from whom to choose but opted for Collins, not just because of his Major League experience but also his flexibility.

"We needed a left-handed bat with [catcher Alex Avila] down as well as Victor," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He can DH. He's played part time at this level before, last year. He's got a little bit of experience there. He understands that sometimes he's going to sit for a few days and then play for a few days. That's why we chose Tyler."

The 24-year-old hit .248 (28-for-113) for the Mud Hens with six doubles, no home runs, nine RBIs, 15 walks, 24 strikeouts and a .639 OPS. Collins -- ranked as the Tigers' No. 8 prospect -- was 10-for-48 with five walks and 14 strikeouts in May. He has fared much better against right-handers, batting .316 (24-for-76) with all of six of his doubles, 14 walks, 13 strikeouts and an .825 OPS.

"You try to take the same approach against righties or lefties," Collins said. "You just go out there and hit line drives, put the barrel on the ball and let everything else fall into place."

Fellow Mud Hens outfielder Daniel Fields actually has stronger numbers off righties, batting .321 (25-for-78) with three doubles, two homers and a 1.032 OPS, but also has 28 strikeouts to go with 20 walks against righties.

"He was discussed," Ausmus said.

Top prospect Steven Moya, meanwhile, is working his way out of a slow start, slowed in part by plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

If Detroit sets up a platoon with Rajai Davis, Collins' splits will play. Still, Collins is not guaranteed regular playing time. The Tigers have turned to Davis against right-handers frequently, including regular play in stretches last season. Even so, Collins at least gives Detroit an impact bat off the bench, which the club has frequently lacked.

Ausmus is noncommittal to a mix. He started Collins at DH on Tuesday night against Jimmy Nelson.

"We have [five] outfielders who can play the outfield and/or DH," Ausmus said. "I can't tell you, on any given day, who it's going to be. … Really, we're probably going to have to have a lefty hit against a lefty, at some point, whether it's [Anthony Gose] in the outfield, or Tyler playing the outfield, or DHing against a lefty."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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