LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nick Castellanos understands all about his move to the outfield.
He understands that some of the best players of all time changed positions more than once to accommodate the lineup needs of their teams.
Pete Rose came up as a second baseman, then became an outfielder, a third baseman and finally, at age 38, a first baseman.
Miguel Cabrera, who once upon a time was a shortstop, became a third baseman in the minors, broke into the majors as a leftfielder, then became a third baseman again, then became a first baseman, then became a third baseman again.
Castellanos understands why the Tigers have moved him from third base to the outfield. Cabrera is signed for three more years. First baseman Prince Fielder, who plays the only position Cabrera now plays besides third base, is signed for eight more years.
Designated hitter? Victor Martinez, now officially listed as "designated hitter" -- as opposed to catcher -- on the team's roster, is signed for two more years. And Cabrera and Fielder relish playing in the field. One morning of watching infield practice in spring training shows that.
"It's whatever is going to benefit the team," Castellanos said Wednesday. "Obviously, Miguel playing third base is going to be the best not only for our team, but for any team he is going to be on. If I want to play in the big leagues, I have to switch positions.
"I understood that as soon as we signed Prince, and now I'm just working toward it."
Castellanos understands there's a lot more to the outfield than just catching routine fly balls. Outfield coach Tom Brookens worked extra with him one day this week on charging balls and making a throw.
"I was surprised at how well his throws carried," Brookens said. "Usually when an infielder goes out there, the throw dies a little bit. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of carry he has on his throws, and I think he's going to have a very, very good arm from the outfield."
What is Castellanos working on the most?
"Catching the ball," he said. "Catch it first and throw it. It's funny how the basics of baseball are so important."
Brookens said: "As much as anything, we're working on a lot of fly balls off the machines. Everything that I see looks good. He's very receptive to wanting to move out there. That's a good thing. He's come to me almost every day and said, 'What are we working on today?' "
Castellanos understands it will take time to become the outfielder he wants to be.
"In the off-season, I worked on playing the outfield every day," he said.
Baseball America ranks Castellanos as the Tigers' top prospect. His bat has earned him that distinction. Baseball America's Prospect Handbook says of him: "He makes loud contact against all types of pitching."
The Tigers want a spot in a future lineup for that bat. They moved Castellanos from third base to the outfield in the middle of last season.
In this year's spring training, the big-league coaching staff is watching him for the first time as an outfielder. It is unlikely he'll make the Opening Day team because there's no full-time job available right now. Castellanos, who will turn 21 in early March, has yet to play in Triple-A.
Castellanos will start in leftfield in the Tigers' exhibition opener Friday, on the road against Atlanta. (The big-league starting outfield will make its debut Saturday in the home opener at Joker Marchant Stadium.)
For some reason in baseball, the ball tends to find people who are playing new positions. On Wednesday morning, Castellanos was told -- "The first ball that Atlanta hits in Friday's game will be hit to you."
"I wouldn't doubt it," he said.
He understands everything, even that.
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