Special ‘Eye on the D’ – a group of Detroit Tigers talk baseball with LSJ in Grand Rapids

By Dave Hart and Steve Gunn
LocalSportsJournal.com

GRAND RAPIDS – Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos took lot of grief from the media and fans during the first half of last season when he struggled at the plate.LSJ Logo incert

He made everyone eat their words when he got hot in the second half and finished with a .255 batting average with 15 homers and 73 RBIs.

“I was very eager – I really wanted to hit,” Castellanos told LocalSportsJournal.com Thursday at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, where the Tigers were making their annual winter caravan stop. “A lot of times I chased pitches out of the zone. In the second half I just tried to go for pitches in the zone, and it was easier to hit.”Eye on the D

But even before the turnaround, Castellanos said he wasn’t troubled by what people said – on the rare occasions he heard them at all.

“I don’t hear or see anything,” he said. “I don’t watch TV, I don’t have any social media and I don’t listen to the radio.

“You go through struggles and the media talks about it like that’s the way you’re going to play for the rest of your career. Then you play well and that’s how they say you’ll play for the rest of your life.

“Why put yourself through the ups and downs (by listening to critics)? I just tune out and try to play well every day.”

Maybin happy to be home

Outfielder Cameron Maybin, who started his career as a Tiger, said he expected to remain with the Atlanta Braves in 2016.

“I wasn’t expecting to be traded,” said Maybin, who was originally traded by the Tigers to the Marlins way back in 2007 in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. “I did a lot of talking with the front office and I felt like I was gong to be a guy who would stick around Atlanta for a few years.

“Trades can be bitter sweet, but for me it was more on the sweet end because I was coming back to an organization I’m so familiar with. And I was excited about playing with two of the best hitters in the game (Cabrera and Victor Martinez).”

Maybin said he’s not bothered by the idea of patrolling the vast center field at Comerica Park this summer. He’s expected to platoon there with Anthony Gose.

“That has sort of followed me my entire career,” he said. “Everywhere I play there has been room to roam, but that just gives me more space to make plays for my pitchers.”

Hardy says players support Ausmus

If anyone is going to dislike a manager, it’s likely to be a pitcher, because pitchers are publicly removed from games when they don’t want to come out.

But relief pitcher Blaine Hardy, one of the bright spots in last year’s bullpen, said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has the support of the entire team.

“I can’t think of anyone who was upset (when Ausmus was retained),” Hardy said. “Brad is a player’s manager. He’s friendly with us, and he acts like a player, but when it comes down it he acts like a coach when he has to.

“Every manager makes some wrong decisions and they learn from mistakes. Brad is a pretty quick learner.”

Hardy says he’s impressed with the way the Tigers rebuilt their bullpen this winter, acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez and setup men Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson.

“We went out and got a closer, which is always priority number one,” he said. “We kind of took the Kansas City approach and got a setup guy and another setup guy. On paper the bullpen looks much better than last year. I hope that’s the case.”

Collins not worried about his role

Until recently Tiger officials were discussing a potential outfield with Tyler Collins playing a key role. He was mostly mentioned as a candidate to platoon in left field.

Now that scenario is far more questionable, with All-Star free agent acquisition Justin Upton becoming the everyday left fielder.

But Collins, who had his longest stint in the major leagues last year, said it doesn’t pay to worry about transactions involving other players.

“I’ve learned that worrying about the front office or anything they do draws my focus away,” Collins said. “I want the Tigers to win, and I’ll do everything I can do with the opportunities I get, and make the most of the time in have in the big leagues.

“You have to beat someone (for playing time) everywhere you go, anyway. I just focus on playing hard and trying to win, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Greene says any pitching role is fine

When people talk about the Tigers’ pitching rotation this year, then tend to mention everyone but Shane Greene. But Greene could turn out to be an unexpected plus for the Tigers.

He made the rotation out of spring training last year and pitched very well at first, but was eventually sidelined with a pseudoaneurysm in his pitching hand that caused numbness.

He had surgery in August and reports that he’s ready to get back in action.

“The only thing I know 100 percent for sure is that I had an aneurysm, I no longer have an aneurysm, and I’m looking forward to spring training,” said Greene, who started 16 games for Detroit last year after coming from the Yankees in a trade.

Greene, who also pitched a bit out of the bullpen last season, said he prefers to be a starter, but will happily accept any role.

“Whenever they tell me to go out there and get people out, I will,” he said. “I just want to pitch and help the Detroit Tigers win a World Series.”

Greene said his hot start last year involved “a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill. Early in the season hitters were still getting used to seeing the ball and I attacked the zone. Things were going my way.

“It was a little bit of a roller coaster of a season. Everybody is going to struggle sometimes. It’s just that my struggles were a little bit more drastic.”

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