LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers aren't yet saying Tyler Collins is on the Opening Day roster for the second time in three years. But with Tuesday's move to option Wynton Bernard to Triple-A Toledo, it's looking that way, barring a last-minute move.
"I'll fall short of saying he's on the roster," manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday morning, "but he's in the driver's seat."
Collins essentially would fill the spot of Cameron Maybin, who will open the season on the 15-day disabled list while he recovers from a broken left wrist. Maybin is currently swinging a bat and hitting soft-toss pitches, but hasn't yet taken standard batting practice.
Collins, who can play all three outfield spots, will back up Anthony Gose in center. Both bat left-handed, which seemingly played in favor of the right-handed-hitting Bernard. However, Collins' big league experience, including at-bats against left-handed pitchers down the stretch last season as the regular left fielder following the Yoenis Cespedes trade, was a mitigating factor.
Collins is batting .318 (14-for-44) with five triples, a home run, eight RBIs, six walks and 12 strikeouts. He has benefited from a quieter batting stance, a project hitting coaches Wally Joyner and David Newhan started with him late last season and picked up this spring.
Bernard, a tryout camp signing two years ago, held his own in center but batted .212 (7-for-33) with no extra-base hits. He has yet to play above the Double-A level in the regular season.
"He needs more development," Ausmus said of the Tigers' No. 23-ranked prospect. "He's come a long way in two years. We feel he has a chance to be a Major League player, but he needs to go down there and learn not only himself, but he needs to continue to improve in center field and continue to improve at the plate. We think it's best for him and best for us right now."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.