By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – To be sure, Detroit Tigers rookie Tyler Collins made a memorable big-league debut, pinch-running in the ninth inning of a tie game against division rival Kansas City on Opening Day and ultimately scoring the winning run. Wednesday he gets the chance to build on that terrific first impression.
Collins will bat second for the Tigers against the Royals. Ian Kinsler will lead off, Miguel Cabrera will follow Collins, Victor Martinez will hit fourth and Torii Hunter (who hit second on Monday) will hit fifth. Austin Jackson will move down to the sixth slot, followed by Alex Avila, Nick Castellanos and Alex Gonzalez.
New Tigers manager Brad Ausmus explained the changes before the game Wednesday.
“Torii, especially against left-handed pitchers, is one guy that slots in well in the fifth spot,” Ausmus said. “The five-hole for us has been – we don’t really have a prototypical five-hole hitter, but I think against a left-handed pitcher, Torii looks more like a five-hole hitter than anyone else on the team.
“I’m sure Tyler will be excited,” Ausmus added. “The hardest part for a young player, just to control the emotions and kind of slow the game down in his mind. Hopefully hitting in front of Miggy gets him the opportunity to hit a few more pitches.”
As would be expected, Collins is thrilled to be in the lineup, and any nerves have been diminished since he has already survived one pressure-packed situation, one Collins said made him more anxious than any normal turn at the plate.
“Opening Day, I wasn’t nervous all day until he was like, ‘All right, you’re going to pinch-run,’ and I was like, ‘All right, I can do that,’ and I ran out there, and I was like, ‘Oh man!'” Collins said. “‘It’s the bottom of the ninth and there’s one out already, so get around the bases and don’t mess up.’ I was like, ‘Oh, here we go.’
“I think I got all the nerves out,” Collins added. “It’ll just be excitement today, I believe.”
For Hunter, moving down in the lineup will not necessitate much of an adjustment. Though he hit second almost all last season for the Tigers, he has batted further down in the lineup throughout his career. Hunter’s approach at the plate will change, however, based on where he is slotted.
“With Miggy hitting behind me, I try to do my best to do whatever it takes to get on base, or if the runner’s on base, hit behind the runner, different things like that,” Hunter said. “But hitting fifth, you get to kind of let loose a little bit. You can swing a little harder, you don’t have to worry about getting the guy over, you’re trying to drive him in, and [if I] get on base I can steal. When I’m hitting second, if I get on, I want Miggy to hit. I don’t want to just steal and take the chance of getting caught, so that’s pretty much it. It’s totally different mentally, but I know how to do that.
“It would be an adjustment if I’d never hit fifth before, or if I had never hit second before, but I’ve done both and had success in both, so I know how to conform,” Hunter added. “Study for a test, you pass it. I think I’ve taken that test several times.”