ARRIVALS: RHP Joaquin Benoit (free agent from Rays), DH/C Victor Martinez (free agent from Red Sox), RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Cardinals).
DEPARTURES: C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Cardinals), RHP Eddie Bonine (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Zach Miner (free agent, signed with Royals), LF Johnny Damon (free agent, signed with Rays).
1. RHP Justin Verlander
2. RHP Max Scherzer
3. RHP Rick Porcello
4. LHP Phil Coke
5. RHP Brad Penny
Verlander and Scherzer rank among baseball’s best 1-2 combinations. Verlander has been crowding 20 wins since he came to the majors and could break through this season, while Scherzer was dominating the last four months after a trip to the minors to straighten out his mechanics.
This is a high-ceiling group but not without question marks. Is the real Porcello the 14-game winning 20-year-old of 2009 or last year’s up-and-down 10-game winner? Can Coke return to starting, which he did in the minors, from major league relieving? Will Penny stay healthy?
If the group stays relatively healthy it could carry Detroit to the playoffs. If not, well, the Tigers will have to rush some youngsters who probably won’t be ready.
RHP Jose Valverde (closer)
RHP Joaquin Benoit
LHP Daniel Schlereth
RHP Joel Zumaya
RHP Ryan Perry
LHP Brad Thomas
RHP Robbie Weinhardt
As good a collection of power bullpen arms as there is in the game, although each member has his issues. Valverde fell off sharply from his spectacular first half last season; Benoit is a late-bloomer; Schlereth finished strong, but inexperience and control could be problems; Zumaya has suffered season-ending injuries four consecutive years; Perry is still shy on experience; Thomas blossomed after years of being a journeyman.
There is some thinness from the left side in the minors but the club’s late-inning arms show little drop-off against left-handed hitters.
RHP Al Alburquerque, signed to a major league contract despite the fact he has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, could sneak in there over Weinhardt if the Tigers believe they need to carry a pitcher who can give it three or four innings. Alburquerque has to overcome control issues.
1. CF Austin Jackson
2. LF Ryan Raburn
3. RF Magglio Ordonez
4. 1B Miguel Cabrera
5. DH Victor Martinez
6. SS Jhonny Peralta
7. 2B Will Rhymes/Scott Sizemore
8. 3B Brandon Inge
9. C Alex Avila
2B Carlos Guillen will claim the job after he recovers from micro-fracture knee surgery, which is expected at some point in April. Slick-fielding INF Danny Worth could force himself into the second base equation if Rhymes or Sizemore don’t look good in the spring, although INF Ramon Santiago probably will be the primary backup.
Avila hit better the last two months after getting regular playing time and will get at least two months to prove he can be a decent major league hitter. If he doesn’t, Martinez moves behind the plate full-time and Detroit will look to OFs Brennan Boesch or Casper Wells to be the designated hitter.
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