By: Evan Jankens
The Detroit Tigers will start their 2016 campaign a week from Tuesday on the road in Miami.READ MORE: Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Blocking Michigan's 1931 Abortion Ban
With the start to the season so close, Tigers GM Al Avila joined Stoney and Bill to talk Tigers baseball. Below are the highlights from the interview.
How’s the health of the team?
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Well, unlike past reports, we are not running a mash unit. It’s been a little bit tricky with all these early injuries. The good news within the bad news is that the injuries that we have sustained are not year-ending injuries and they are not long term and the injuries have been early in camp. Cameron Maybin’s injury was the first pitch of spring for him, the first game, the first at bat. It’s allowed him to heal the whole month of March and we expect him back in April. I guess you feel fortunate about that. One thing about his injury is, if it would have occurred in August or September in a pennant race he probably would have been able to play and continue to play with no issues, but we thought to be conservative to go this route because later on if something were to flare up then we would be kicking ourselves in the butt that we could have taken care of this early.
With Alex Wilson, he won’t break camp with us, as long as he continues to pitch well, he’ll rejoin us early in April.
Blaine Hardy again he really is fine right now. It’s just a matter of getting his arm strength back.
Daniel Norris had basically a freak accident in the trainers room and of course he should be able to pitch again in April.
All of those injuries, while we don’t like them, thankfully are things that will be overcome in a matter of a short time and the guys should be back in April at some point.
V-Mart, he’s fine, he’s already played in some games in the backfield in the minor league games and he’s been hitting and running and he’s ready pretty much, he should be ready to play in a regular game today or tomorrow.
How’s it battling out for the fourth and fifth spot in the rotation?
The other guys battling are Shane Greene, Matt Boyd and Bucks Farmer. Buck Farmer probably had the best outing of the spring yesterday, last night in Tampa against the Yankees, probably the best he has pitched almost in his major league career. He was very impressive in the three innings he threw.
Norris was obviously in that mix and we have to make a final decision on one of those guys. As you see, we had Fulmer here earlier in camp, Michael Fulmer, Buck Farmer, Shane Green and Boyd and that’s with the addition of Daniel Norris who obviously will be back in April. We had five guys really battling for one spot, so we feel good that we have some depth that we can work with if a guy gets injured a guy needs a blow.
What is the situation with Bruce Rondon and the bullpen?
We felt Bruce needed more time. He has come into camp and done very well, he’s worked hard. He’s had a couple of outings here and there where he has looked lights out, outstanding. Then he has had a couple of outings like the one he had last time that was not good. It’s a matter of him keeping with more consistency and his outing by outing. I think our plan with him is to go down there continue to work and be Toledo’s closer and if he does the job there and gains that consistency we are looking for, he may be back up sooner than later.
K-Rod will be our closer, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe will be that seventh and eighth inning roll and those guys are the guys we brought in over the winter time and need to get that job done.
Will the Tigers compete in the AL Central?
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The way we put the team together (is) so we can compete and try to win a championship in the American League Central. The American League Central, in my opinion, probably the most exciting division because I believe it’s the most competitive division with the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians and even the White Sox right now. They have retooled and they have a chance to win and Minnesota has always played us tough. In all seriousness, I do believe our division is the toughest and it’s going to be very very tough and we have our work cut out for us.
At the end of the day, our players are going to have to be playing at their top-notch level. Verlander is going to be very important, Zimmermann is going to be very important, Sanchez is going to be very important, the top three guys in your rotation are always the most important guys. If your fourth and fifth starters can keep you in the game your offense can pull out a game here or there. The bullpen has to shut it down at the end of the game, when a guy doesn’t go past five innings you need a long man in the middle, that’s just the way the game is played.
If we get our lineup healthy, which right now we are, for the most part, we have a good offense. With Kinsler, Cabrera, Victor Martinez healthy, Justin Upton who has now caught on fire here at the latter part of Spring Training in the middle of our lineup, J.D. Martinez that’s a pretty good offensive threat. We have shown throughout spring training that we are going to be able to hit and score some runs.