DETROIT -- On Opening Day, Tyler Collins became the fifth player since 1979 to make his Major League debut as a pinch-runner and score a game-winning run on a walk-off hit. Among the players he joined was Cal Ripken Jr., who did the same for the Orioles in '81, and former Cardinals great Tommy Herr, who did so in St. Louis in '79.
In the second game of the season, the left-handed hitting Collins not only made his first Major League start against a left-handed starting pitcher, he batted second in front of Miguel Cabrera.
Needless to say, he has had an interesting start to his big league career.
"The hardest part for a young player is to kind of control the emotions and slow the game down in his mind," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but hopefully hitting in front of Miggy gets him the opportunity to hit a few more pitches."
Ausmus said Collins learned about his starting nod right after the season opener, which means he was celebrating his game-winning run while finding out about his starting assignment.
"He was probably sleepless," Ausmus said.
The starting nod against a lefty, especially batting second, can be traced to reverse splits for both Collins and the pitcher he faced. Left-handed hitters batted .327 (53-for-162) off Jason Vargas last season, and .263 off him the past five seasons, five points higher than righties have hit him in the same span.
At the same time, Collins raked against lefties last year at Double-A Erie, hitting them for a .289 average (41-for-142), 11 home runs and a .953 OPS, compared with a .219 average (71-for-324), 10 homers and a .676 OPS against righties.
Miggy's new extension loaded with incentives
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera's record contract extension, guaranteeing him $292 million, is slightly backloaded, recently-released details show. More importantly, it includes some incentives that could raise the eventual total even higher.
Cabrera's $22 million salary remains intact for this year and next. His salary will jump to $28 million for 2016 and '17, then $30 million from '18 through '21. The last two guaranteed seasons of his deal are the most lucrative at $32 million each.
Cabrera will get either a $30 million salary in 2024, if his option vests with a top 10 MVP finish or if the club picks it up, or he'll get an $8 million buyout. The same option is in place for '25, though not with a buyout.
The deal also includes some good-sized bonuses. Another American League Most Valuable Player Award will earn him $2 million. Finishing second through fifth in the voting will earn him $200,000. Placing sixth through 10th will earn him $100,000. Winning the Hank Aaron Award is worth $250,000. He also has a bonus of $100,000 for being voted an All-Star or being named to the Baseball America, AP or Sporting News end-of-season All-Star teams.
Cabrera has $100,000 bonuses for Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, $150,000 for ALCS Most Valuable Player, and $200,000 for World Series MVP. If he wins league MVP, the Hank Aaron Award and World Series MVP in the same season, he gets a $1 million bonus.
Torii getting his swings in Tigers' No. 5 spot
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson's tenure as the Tigers' fifth hitter behind Victor Martinez lasted all of one game. With Tyler Collins batting second on Wednesday, Torii Hunter moved into the fifth slot.
Hunter's self-expressed comfort level batting second and his history as a veteran run producer on a team that doesn't have many of those is going to land him in the fifth spot on certain days when no one else logically fits.
"I think Torii, especially against left-handed hitters, is one guy who slots in well in the fifth spot," Ausmus said. "The five-hole for us, 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."
Hunter has batted in more games in the fifth spot (608) than any other slot in his career. However, he didn't hit there at all there last year, and had played just 22 games there over the last four years.
Prospect Suarez among Minors roster shifts
DETROIT -- Shortstop prospect Eugenio Suarez will be a part of a talented group of position players at Double-A Erie, not at Triple-A Toledo as previously planned. The move was one of several shifts revealed in recent days as Tigers Minor League rosters were finalized.
Suarez had been optioned to Triple-A Toledo in the final week of Spring Training, but that move came before the Tigers traded for shortstop Alex Gonzalez. That addition landed Danny Worth and Hernan Perez in Toledo, which in turn pushed Perez to Erie.
The flip side is that Suarez is teamed up with up-and-coming prospect Devon Travis in what has the potential for a talented double-play combination. Outfielder Steven Moya, who opened some eyes with an impressive Spring Training with the big club, also will open with the SeaWolves, as will first baseman Aaron Westlake and third baseman Francisco Martinez.
The Mud Hens' outfield is centered by prospect Daniel Fields, flanked by newly-acquired J.D. Martinez in left, Ezequiel Carrera in right, and Ben Guez in reserve. Trevor Crowe, who spent part of Spring Training competed for a Major League spot, opens on the Triple-A disabled list with an oblique injury.
The Mud Hens' rotation features right-hander Drew VerHagen and lefty Robbie Ray, two prospects who were promoted aggressively after spending less than a full season at Double-A. Lefties Duane Below and Kyle Lobstein are also in the rotation, with veteran right-hander Derek Hankins rounding out the group.
• Both Joe Nathan and Miguel Cabrera were fine after head athletic trainer Kevin Rand checked on them in the ninth and 10th innings, respectively, in Wednesday's 2-1 walk-off victory, according to manager Brad Ausmus. Nathan made a movement on a balk that had Rand suspicious, but it was nothing. Cabrera was spiked on his left foot by Aoki trying to beat Al Alburquerque's throw. Both stayed in the game.
Ausmus downplayed any concerns about Nathan as the closer after two walks in a blown save. "If the game is a one-run game [Thursday], I have no problem bringing him back in with the game on the line," the rookie skipper said.