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 Tigers ready for first trip to Target Field

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PostSubject: Tigers ready for first trip to Target Field   Mon May 03, 2010 11:58 pm

Tigers ready for first trip to Target Field
Club visits Minnesota for first time since '09 tiebreaker

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

05/02/10 7:14 PM ET

DETROIT -- Six months after the heartbreak of the American League Central tiebreaker, the Tigers are heading back to Minnesota. They are not, however, heading back to the Metrodome.

Rest assured, they are not heartbroken about the latter.

"Am I glad we're not playing in the Metrodome anymore? Yeah, I am," manager Jim Leyland said Sunday. "But I don't think that's necessarily going to have anything to do with the outcome of games, whether you win or lose up there. I don't buy that."

If the Tigers needed any help moving on from memories of a division title lost, a game under the Minnesota sky at Target Field on Monday night should do it. Psychologically, the Tigers tried to move on back in Spring Training, a separation highlighted by the new-look roster.

Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore and Max Scherzer, the scheduled starter for Monday's series opener, weren't anywhere near the Metrodome last October. They weren't in Tigers uniforms. Johnny Damon watched the tiebreaker game, but as an interested opponent waiting to see who would advance to face him and Phil Coke with the Yankees the next day.

Especially after taking two of three from the division-leading Twins at Comerica Park last week, it's more about moving on from the Metrodome than moving on from last season for many Tigers.

"It's obviously going to have a different feel. There's no question about that," shorstop Adam Everett said. "And it's going to be exciting playing in the new park and getting to see the surroundings and whatnot. It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to exceptionally nice that it's not going to be a dome."

The funny thing was that different Tigers all seem to have different reasons why they disliked the Metrodome. Some hated the challenge of judging fly balls against the backdrop of the roof. Others hated the bounce of the artificial turf and the infield choppers that the Twins seemed to get out of it. Former Detroit pitcher Nate Robertson dreaded the impact the pressurized environment and ventilation system had on his sinuses. Former manager Alan Trammell dreaded the air conditioning system that they once thought Minnesota turned on when it was batting to help fly balls carry.

"It was an aggravating place," Leyland said, "but a lot of it was pregame. The narrow little place in there where all the coaches were stuffed in there -- the writers couldn't get in there. You couldn't talk to anybody. You're trying to get dressed and somebody's in your face. There were a lot of aggravating things."

Said Ryan Raburn: "There are some things about the Metrodome that I definitely won't miss, especially benches that aren't very comfortable when you're not playing."


For many of those same reasons, they're looking forward to checking out Target Field. With relatively warm weather forecast in Minneapolis for the next few days, they're especially looking forward to it.

"You have to learn the ballpark when you'll be playing there so much," Raburn said. "We have to find out the little quirks about that ballpark. We just have to figure out how that ballpark plays different."

But as Leyland pointed out, it could end up being as dreaded a place as the Metrodome. That doesn't say anything about the ballpark, but the team playing there.

"I think a lot of it's a state of mind," Leyland said. "I always use the example: In the '60s, nobody liked to hit at Shea Stadium, but it had nothing to do with the park. [The Mets] had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. That's why it was tough to hit in. It had nothing to do the surroundings of the park. They had great pitchers. That's why you didn't want to go there and hit."

This time around, the Tigers will miss out on Francisco Liriano, who gave hitters fits last week in Detroit. They'll open with Scott Baker, whom they hit well at Comerica Park last Wednesday.

But perhaps the biggest difference will be the potential absence of All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, who's day-to-day with a heel injury. He has played just once in Minnesota's past four games, and it's possible he'll miss the entire series.

When Dontrelle Willis and the Tigers' bullpen combined to shut out the Twins last Thursday, Minnesota had a lineup without Mauer and Justin Morneau for the first time since May 5, 2006, when former Detroit left-hander Kenny Rogers faced them. The Twins have Morneau back, but losing Mauer takes out a key aggravator of Tigers pitching.

Detroit held Mauer to a 1-for-11 performance in last week's series, but as Leyland put it, "That will never happen again."

Fortunately for the Tigers, neither will those Metrodome hops, those fly balls lost in the roof, or any number of Metrodome quirks.

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 ready for first trip to Target Field   Tue May 04, 2010 12:07 am



Tigers impressed with Target Field

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

05/03/10 8:11 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even before seeing a pitch Monday night, the Tigers had plenty of impressions about Target Field. But slugger Miguel Cabrera summed it up in four words.

"This," Cabrera said, "is big league."


It wasn't going to be hard to get the Tigers to think favorably about this place over the Metrodome, their personal pressure cooker for years. From a spacious visiting clubhouse to a batting cage located just off the dugout, the Tigers were giving positive reviews before heading outside.

"Gorgeous, absolutely stunning," said manager Jim Leyland, who had his own office in this clubhouse after having to share a cramped locker room with coaches in the Metrodome. "They've done an absolutely great job with this entire setup that I've seen. It's absolutely beautiful. They really can be proud of this. They did a great job. I'm happy for them.

"It's a stunning place. It really is. The dugouts are real close to home plate, and Gardy and I will be able to hear each other, probably."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire could hear Leyland's views on the ballpark earlier in the day, since they toured the place.

"He loves it," Gardenhire said. "He said it's a great place, a great clubhouse over there. He said it was spectacular, makes it one of the better cities to come to. He's right downtown. He can walk to the ballpark.

"I think he's really going to enjoy this place. Hopefully not too awful much. But he sure does like the looks of it."

That said, while there was a beauty to it, Leyland liked the fact that it didn't go overboard. The clubhouse is big, Leyland said, not too big.

"It's done with great taste and not a lot of silly gingerbread," Leyland said.

Once they were done admiring the place, the Tigers had to go about learning how to play it. For that, there's only so much they could do before actually playing a game. Leyland and coaches made a point to hit ground balls to both infielders and outfielders to get an idea how quickly balls carry on the surface.

Leyland also wanted his outfielders to play some hits off the outfield dimensions to see how the ball caroms off of the various surfaces, ranging from the outfield padding to the backdrop behind them to the various limestone facings, including a right-field porch area that hangs over part of right field. The front of it is actually in play.

"If Span hits one off there, you'd better be calling all outfielders to be on alert," Leyland said of the Twins' Denard Span. "But it's great. I'm anxious to play a game here."

That also goes for the backstop, where catcher Gerald Laird was curious how big of a bounce he might encounter on a wild pitch.

"Like Texas, they have the brick there now, and the ball shoots all over the place," Laird said. "You actually need guys to just come in and back up. You want to know which direction the ball's going to be coming off."

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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