–RHP Justin Verlander turned 28 on Feb. 20, the same age RHP Jack Morris was when he became a 20-game winner for the first time. “He’s a potential 20-game winner every year; his stuff’s that good,” manager Jim Leyland said early in spring training. Verlander has won 17 games once, 18 twice and 19 once. Detroit has not had a 20-game winner since RHP Bill Gullickson went 20-9 in 1991.
–CF Austin Jackson reported for spring training with about 10 pounds of added muscle following his strong rookie season. “Just had to get stronger so my body can withstand a full major league season,” Jackson said before the exhibition games began. Jackson, 24, slid under .300 at the end of his rookie year, but when he did put the ball in play he batted .396. His 170 strikeouts led the league. Jackson had 181 hits. “I’ve just got to become more disciplined and not swing at bad pitches,” Jackson said. “The guys in the major leagues have dirty stuff. If (pitchers) get that quick strike on you, they can carve you up. But I’m going to work on (cutting) down on the strikeouts.” Jackson has talked about stealing 40 bases this season, too.
–RF Magglio Ordonez wants to get Detroit back to the World Series this season. “We’re going to finish the mission this year,” he said. “I want to come back and play good baseball. I want to stay healthy and we need to win. You don’t have many chances to go to the World Series, and at this stage in my career, I want to win the World Series.” Ordonez had other opportunities, he said, but re-signed for $10 million after Detroit declined to pick up his $15- million option at the end of last season, which was shortened by a broken ankle late in July. “The only thing I wanted was to come back to Detroit,” Ordonez said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I always thought I was coming back. You always worry that you won’t come back. But after I signed, I took my family out to celebrate with a special dinner. And it is good to be back. I love it here.”
–RHP Robbie Weinhardt is a candidate for the last spot in Detroit’s bullpen. “He’s definitely a prospect, there’s no question about that,” manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s just a question of being consistent. Sinkerball pitchers need to keep the ball down.” Weinhardt likely will have to pitch better than RHP Al Albuerquerque, who has a major league contract, to make the opening day roster. The club told him at the end of last season he had to keep his sinker down more often and get better with his slider. “A sinker was what got me to Detroit, so that’s what I was going to use when I got there,” Weinhardt said. “It was good until I hit some bumpy parts. And when I did hit bumpy parts, it flattened out. And when a sinkerball flattens, you get in trouble. That’s what happened to me; went back down to Toledo and was more relaxed. I could get back to what got me there. Sometimes my mechanics kind of got a little off, which flattened out my sinker a little bit. It was just basically how (Max) Scherzer was, just finding the mechanical issue to get back to where he was. That’s all it was, really, for me to get back into the swing of things.”
–RHP Jose Valverde is going to be on an unspecified pitch limit this season, although manager Jim Leyland won’t admit the 60-pitch outing he threw right after the All-Star break was responsible for his poor second half. “I certainly wouldn’t want him to throw (60) pitches again,” Leyland said. “I’m going to talk to him. And if the pitch count gets to a certain point this year, I’m taking him out.” Valverde had a 0.92 ERA before the All-Star break and struck out the side in one inning of the All-Star Game in Anaheim. But his ERA after that was 6.38. Valverde also had two 38-pitch outings in the second half. “He’ll be protected,” Leyland said of Valverde. “All our pitchers are.” Valverde also missed time at the end because of a sore elbow. “He was pretty much healthy for all of the year, so I don’t think it really contributed to anything,” Leyland said. “He had a couple little setbacks like everybody does. Every pitcher in baseball has that from time to time, when it just doesn’t feel right for a day or so.”
–2B Carlos Guillen had a balky knee after pushing it the first days after position players reported to spring training. Manager Jim Leyland said the soreness isn’t “a red flag.” The Tigers don’t expect Guillen to be recovered enough from his September microfracture knee surgery to be ready for the start of the season. He will be brought along slowly and won’t be given the green light for strenuous running until a couple of weeks into exhibition games.
–LHP Phil Coke might not start until April 10 as manager Jim Leyland said he intends to go with four starters because of days off early in the season. Leyland has yet to announce whether Coke or RHP Brad Penny will start the second game of Detroit’s season-opening series at Yankee Stadium. “It’s not a demotion or anything, but you can’t start five guys,” Leyland said. “Somebody’s going to be skipped, but they’re going to be with the club.”
–RHP Brad Penny is under consideration along with LHP Phil Coke to start the second game of the season. Manager Jim Leyland hasn’t announced which it will be but the one who does not start the second game won’t start until April 10 at Comerica Park. “It’s not a demotion or anything, but you can’t start five guys,” Leyland said. Detroit has days off in the first two series of the season, at New York against the Yankees and at Baltimore. It won’t play five days in a row, weather permitting, until April 10. “Somebody’s going to be skipped, but they’re going to be with the club,” Leyland said.
BY THE NUMBERS
4 — Starters the Tigers will use from when the season opens March 31 until April 10, barring postponements or weather-shortened games. Off days in each of the first two series will permit manager Jim Leyland to use four starters and Detroit doesn’t have five games in a row until April 10 at Comerica Park.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“One thing’s for sure. Our team just got a whole lot better this morning.” — Manager Jim Leyland’s reaction when 1B Miguel Cabrera reported Feb. 25 for his first workout with the Tigers. Cabrera had been absent since being arrested Feb. 16 and charged with DUI, his second arrest for an alcohol-fueled incident since the last weekend of the 2009 season.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.