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 Tigers aiming for consistency in '08 - Opening Day

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PostSubject: Tigers aiming for consistency in '08 - Opening Day   Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:43 am

03/28/2008 10:00 AM ET
Tigers aiming for consistency in '08
Games against bottom of division could be crucial
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

The forecast for Detroit on Monday is more of the same: Cold. The reception, on the other hand, should be pretty warm.

Tigers players have been tracking the Opening Day forecast for the past several days as they prepare to transition from the warm sunshine of Florida to what they hope are the last gasps of winter in Michigan. With the cooldown, however, comes a sudden increase in heat.

Part of that will be from the fans, from whom most of the Tigers already know what to expect. Opening Day is an event in Detroit regardless of where the Tigers are projected to finish in the standings. It's a rite of spring that gives residents promise that summer is eventually on its way.

Eventually, of course, is the key word.

"I know it's going to be freezing -- and snowing," Kenny Rogers said, "or we'll probably have some rain. "Typical Detroit weather. That's all right."

Before that happens, however, there's another warm spell coming, and it's centered right underneath where the Tigers are standing. With the arrival of the regular season comes the pressure the Tigers will face after a flurry of offseason moves positioned this club to win now.

Come Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, what has been one of baseball's best teams on paper since last December's trade for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis will be tested on the field in games that count. And there'll be a lot of fans counting.

That's why when manager Jim Leyland was asked entering the final two weeks of Spring Training how his team is dealing with the pressure of expectations, he pointed out the obvious.

"We haven't had any forfeits yet," Leyland said. "Nobody's canceling games."

Certainly the Royals aren't, not after the role they played in keeping the Tigers from a return to the postseason last year. For all the importance that will deservedly be placed upon the Tigers' showdowns with the Indians in the American League Central, it could be the games against the rest of the Central that determines a champion.

When the Tigers beat out the White Sox for the AL Wild Card two years ago, they did so despite losing 12 out of 19 games against the then-reigning World Series champions. The difference was that they went 38-18 against the rest of the division, including 14-4 versus Kansas City. The White Sox, by contrast, went 28-29 against Central teams other than Detroit, including eight critical losses to the Royals.

The Tigers' 12 losses in 18 games with Cleveland last year proved debilitating to their playoff hopes, but so did 11 losses to the White Sox and seven to the Royals. The Indians, by comparison, compounded their success versus Detroit by going 36-18 against the rest of the Central.

The silver lining for Detroit fans was the way their team reacted to their shortfall, the offseason of moves geared toward winning now. That, too, will be apparent Monday, especially when third baseman Cabrera is introduced.

"I'm excited for it," Cabrera said. "I don't want to think how cold it's going to be."

Neither Cabrera nor Willis have had the chance to open a season in the chill of a Midwestern March. They opened last season with the Marlins in Washington, but the game-time temperature that day was around 70 degrees.

They'll soon learn how to deal with it the way so many transplanted Tigers have. Rogers, for example, says he handles it the same way he dealt with Texas heat when he was with the Rangers.

"You've just got to accept it, and you have to learn how to deal with it," Rogers said. "You already know it's going to be there, whether you want it to or not. So you have to want it."

Leyland has been through plenty.

"They tell me it's going to be bad up there -- cold," Leyland said. "But I don't worry about that. To sit around and worry about stuff like that, it taxes your mind for no reason, really. You can't do anything about it."

Pitching matchup
KC: RHP Gil Meche (9-13, 3.67 ERA in 2007)
He's traditionally strong against Detroit, including a 4-1 career record and 3.35 ERA in nine starts at Comerica Park. He gets a lot of swings and misses from Tigers hitters, so Monday could give an early sign just how different Detroit's lineup is now.

DET: RHP Justin Verlander (18-6, 3.66 ERA)
It's the first Opening Day assignment for Detroit's young ace. Verlander is 6-0 with a 2.26 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals.

Tidbits
The Royals don't have many players who hit Verlander, but John Buck and Billy Butler are two. They're 4-for-8 and 5-for-8, respectively, off Verlander with a double, home run and two RBIs.

PROPOSED LINEUPS



  1. CF David DeJesus
  2. 2B Mark Grudzielanek
  3. 3B Alex Gordon
  4. RF Jose Guillen
  5. DH Billy Butler
  6. 1B Ross Gload
  7. LF Mark Teahen
  8. C John Buck
  9. SS Tony Pena Jr.


  1. SS Edgar Renteria
  2. 2B Placido Polanco
  3. DH Gary Sheffield
  4. RF Magglio Ordonez
  5. 3B Miguel Cabrera
  6. 1B Carlos Guillen
  7. C Ivan Rodriguez
  8. LF Jacque Jones
  9. CF Brandon Inge

On the Internet

MLB.TV

Gameday Audio

• Gameday

• Official game notes
On television
• FSN Detroit/FOX 2 Detroit
On radio
• AM 1270/FM 97.1



Up next
• Tuesday: Off-day

• Wednesday: Royals (RHP Brian Bannister, 12-9, 3.87) at Tigers (LHP Kenny Rogers, 3-4, 4.43), 1:05 p.m. ET

• Thursday: Royals (RHP Zack Greinke, 7-7, 3.69) at Tigers (RHP Jeremy Bonderman, 11-9, 5.01), 1:05 p.m. ET

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: Tigers aiming for consistency in '08 - Opening Day   Mon Mar 31, 2008 9:53 pm

03/30/2008 6:19 PM ET
Leyland recognizes pomp of opener
Tigers manager knows excited fans are armed with questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't want to make a big deal out of the Opening Day weather. Still, he knows enough to understand that Opening Day is a big deal in this city, rain or shine.

Before the Tigers worked out Sunday afternoon, Leyland was in street clothes organizing things in his office. It's a space with which he has become comfortable after two years. At some point Monday morning, Leyland will take much the same trip to Comerica Park that he did last season during the big games and during the long stretches.

But while he doesn't get into the pomp and circumstance, he understands why most of Detroit does. It's a big enough deal that, in terms of the scope of it, he compared it to the start of deer-hunting season in Pennsylvania, where schools and businesses close for that day.

"I love Opening Day," Leyland said. "I've always said Opening Day, I think, is a happening more than a game -- not to me, but to people in general. I think people look forward to this day.

"Somebody told me last night they're shutting down some offices downtown. I mean, that's wonderful. But for me, it's business as usual. You've got introductions and all that time-consuming stuff, and you're glad to be a part of it, don't get me wrong. But I don't really see what's going on outside, people partying and all that."

Opening Day is an event in Detroit every year, a harbinger that spring isn't far away. And indeed, compared to the winter weather that Michigan has seen for most of March, Monday is expected to be a warm afternoon with highs in the mid-50s. The downside is that it'll also likely be a wet day, with showers and scattered thunderstorms in the forecast.

The weather stayed away long enough for both the Tigers and Royals to work out and take batting practice on the field Sunday, allowing players to get used to the cooler temperatures compared to what they enjoyed in Spring Training.

Leyland would love to see a better day on Monday, but moreso for the fans than his players.

"People are going to come tomorrow," Leyland said. "They're probably going to be cold, maybe even wet. That's irritable for them. It doesn't bother me; I'm here to work. But if you had a beautiful spring day, if you could ask for the best, that would be the best for everybody else."

For the Tigers, though, it's also about getting into a routine, getting ready for the other 161 games that follow as much as enjoying the first one. Many players just started to get settled in when they arrived in Detroit on Saturday night. Assuming Monday's game is played, the Tigers will have an off-day Tuesday to finish up that process before playing the rest of the week.

"I emphasize to just use common sense," Leyland said about his message to players. "Don't get yourself all stressed out and burned out on it."

He wants his players focused on the task at hand once they get to the park. Leyland doesn't expect that to be a problem. As he said all spring, one thing he doesn't have to worry about with this team is its professionalism.

"This is the best group of players for cooperation, work ethic, [being] congenial, going about their business professionally, that I've ever had," Leyland reiterated. "I've never seen a group of veteran players like this that goes about their business."

Part of that, he believes, comes from respect for the owner that put the team together and approved the deals and signings that the Tigers made. With that respect, though, comes a sense of responsibility Leyland has tried to convey to his players.

"There's no excuses," he said. "This man [owner Mike Ilitch] has gone above and beyond. It's all on us now, because this man has done everything asked."

There might not be excuses, but Leyland expects there will be questions. They won't come from in the clubhouse, but from the fans.

"I think, from my perspective, this will be a tremendous year for fans from a second-guessing standpoint," Leyland said. "From that perspective, it's going to be very interesting. I think there's going to be a lot of decisions to second-guess from a pitching standpoint because of [not having Joel] Zumaya and [Fernando] Rodney."

Leyland is ready for it, and he says he welcomes it. Come Monday, he and the Tigers will try to get into the routine of what could be anything but a routine season.

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: Tigers aiming for consistency in '08 - Opening Day   Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:31 pm

It was quite the spectacle! Anybody see Miss America throw out the first pitch? Wonder if she was able to keep her crown on?!?!?
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