With apologies to the late Ernie Harwell: For lo the winter is past… And the sounds of baseball have once again returned to our land. Just in time.
The Tigers are finally opening the season in New York against the Yankees after a winter that seemed to last forever. You’ll have to wait until Friday April 8th for the Tigers home opener at Comerica Park, an event that is Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and the Fourth of July all rolled into one, as Ernie used to say. It is THE place to be of course, even for those who don’t really love baseball. And for many fans, it will be their only trip to the ballpark all year.
I had a chance to check out the Tigers in Spring Training in Florida, and after watching three games there, I have to say the team looks great. Of course, I always think that in the spring, but I believe it really is true this season. Some of my first impressions:
Miguel Cabrera looks like he’s ready for another monster season, despite his off-the-field problems. If he can behave himself, there’s no reason he can’t have another MVP year, with close to 40 home runs and 120 RBI’s.
Magglio Ordonez may be 37, but he was still hitting doubles off the wall down in Lakeland. The Tigers need him to bounce back.
Victor Martinez was a great addition for the Tigers, and will add much needed protection for Cabrera.
Justin Verlander had a tremendous spring (o.9 ERA) and hopes to start strong this year, unlike past seasons when he’s had terrible Aprils.
Max Scherzer got lit up in one Spring game, but he should be fine.
There’s still concern about production in the bottom third of the lineup, especially from Brandon Inge and Alex Avilla. And Carlos Guillen and Joel Zumaya are starting the season on the Disabled List again. There are whispers that the Guillen may not even play for the Tigers again, but that would mean the Tigers have to eat another huge contract. And owner Mike Illitch may already have had his fill of those.
Brennan Boesch looks like he may have figured out what went wrong in the second half of the season, and he should 300 to 400 at-bats platooning with Ryan Rayburn in Right or Ordonez in Right.
One of the big surprises of the spring has to be Will Rhymes getting the start at second, and so far, he’s looked good at the plate and in the field.
And Don Kelly is a versatile fill in at a number of positions.
The Tigers are in a tough division, and we can expect another dogfight with the Twins and White Sox. I am looking forward to watching every inning and every game I can. Let the games begin!