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 For Tigers, the playoff chase begins now

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PostSubject: For Tigers, the playoff chase begins now   Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:05 am

02/11/2008 12:00 AM ET
For Tigers, the playoff chase begins now
Detroit hopes outlook on paper translates to success on field
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

DETROIT -- The Tigers have been touted as one of baseball's best teams on paper since their trade for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in December. This week, they'll finally start putting that team on the field.

While Michigan's long winter continues, with cold temperatures and snow showers, attention for fans, players, coaches and club officials alike turns to warmer, sunnier Lakeland, Fla., where Spring Training is set to officially start. Though several players have been there for a while already -- some arrive as early as January, others give themselves a week or so of a head start -- pitchers and catchers officially report on Thursday, with formal workouts starting on Friday morning.

They won't play a game that counts in the standings for another month and a half, but the chase for the playoffs begins now.

Reporting day is essentially a formality, as many players underwent their physicals in Detroit last month while they were in town for TigerFest. For players who have been there for a while, it's simply one more day of informal workouts before they become official. Those who haven't reported yet don't have a set time to do; they can pop in at any time.

The schedules and disciplines that have become trademarks of manager Jim Leyland's camps take effect on Friday. After a quick talk from Leyland and the coaches, pitchers and catchers will take the field for stretching, then head to the training fields in the back of the complex for some light throwing and fielding practice.

The morning concludes with pitchers taking the mounds to throw side sessions. Some will throw on Friday, others will wait until Saturday, setting up an every-other-day schedule to allow arms to rest. From there, the workday is over at around midday for players, who have the rest of the afternoon to either hit the workout room on some days or visit their families or the golf course, or do errands.

It's a regimented schedule designed for as little wasted time as possible, getting players in and out while keeping them focused.

"[Third-base coach] Gene [Lamont] and I have worked on the organization of Spring Training," Leyland said last month. "Gene keeps our papers every year, what we do. We'll be organized and ready to go. We'll have meetings prior to that in Lakeland.

"I'm a real stickler on organization and everything running right in Spring Training, because I think it sets the right tempo for your team. I think it's the more disciplined team that has a better chance to win. We're going to do all those things."

That will be the full pattern until the rest of the team is in camp. Position players are scheduled to report on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and the first full-squad workout will take place the next day.

The Tigers have trained in Lakeland for the last 42 years, but aside from 1969 and 1985, when they were defending World Series titles, it's difficult to find a time when they've arrived with as much anticipation as this. The team reported last year ranked among the favorites to reach the World Series, but also with lingering questions whether its run to the Fall Classic the previous fall was a Cinderella story or the start of something big.

As it turned out, the Tigers fell short of the playoffs, and instead spent October watching the Cleveland Indians try to continue the recent tradition of Midwest success, then watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

After the acquisitions of Cabrera, Willis, Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones, however, what was already a quality team with hope has been complemented by the element of potential.

The starting lineup is largely set, at least in terms of who plays where. The rotation, too, is set, but it features several players either trying to rebound from injuries -- such as Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman -- or trying to bounce back from seasons that didn't meet their expectations.

"I'm excited coming into this year, obviously," Justin Verlander said. "With our pitching staff, I think we can do some great things."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: For Tigers, the playoff chase begins now   Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:40 pm

The Tigers need to booster their bullpen; That is the weak spot on an otherwise awesome team.
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