It has been a long and frigid 30 years since the "Roar of 84" and the World Series was Detroit's for the taking. Despite three consecutive trips to the ALDS (2011-2013), back-to-back visits in the ALCS (2012, 2013), and a World Series appearance in 2012, the Detroit Tigers continue to find themselves in search of a new championship.
The Tigers do not look the same as they did only six months ago. A team rarely does but there was a higher turnover rate than usual. When fans pass through the gates of Comerica Park on March 31 complete with added security measures (think of it as a mini airport without the benefit of flight) there will be new names to get acquainted with.
And if the changes to the team weren't enough, Major League Baseball added a new rule to home plate collisions and put expanded replay into effect. So far everything has gone off without a hitch, but it's early in the season. Expect things to begin settling in about mid-season, along with Phil Coke's pop-out finger point (yes, he is back).
The Tigers annual TigerFest in January gave fans a glimpse of what the 2014 season had to offer but the Tigers are quite different even since then. To help you come to terms with everything, we have put together a chunk-sized summary of your 2014 Detroit Tigers along with fancy links. You didn't really expect us to do everything for you...did you? Oh, alright.
The Rookie Manager
The Detroit Tigers manager of eight years Jim Leyland (2006-2013) is gone, sort of. He semi-retired and now serves as the special advisor to Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.
The new Tigers manager is Brad Ausmus who only left the game of baseball three years ago. The 44-year old has never managed a team before. Ausmus graduated from Dartmouth University and has a gift for being cryptic regarding every decision he makes.
He carries a catcher's glove just about everywhere he goes and doesn't allow smoking in the clubhouse. Yet. We'll see how the season progresses.
The starting pitching staff: RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Rick Porcello and LHP Drew Smyly.
Justin Verlander will be the starting pitcher for Opening Day for the seventh consecutive year. Verlander had core muscle repair surgery on January 9, 2014 then gave a perfect spring training performance where he allowed only eight hits, issued five walks, struck out 17 and allowed zero runs. He and Kate Upton are dating again. Yes, really.
Max Scherzer gave the Tigers until Opening Day to ink him to a new contract and said if it wasn't completed by then he would not discuss anything until after the 2014 season. Scherzer turned down a 6 year/$144M offer so Scherzer will be a free agent following the 2014 season. He got married in the offseason.
Anibal Sánchez's first name is pronounced "Ah-Knee-Ball". He won't remind you how to say it so we're doing it for him. He had to take some time off during spring training because of shoulder inflammation but was pronounced good to go after a cortisone shot and rest.
Rick Porcello has moved up to the number four slot in the rotation to take Doug Fister's place who went to the Washington Nationals via trade. Not everyone was happy about the trade. Porcello had a solid spring outing though and Ausmus said he is happy with what he has seen from Porcello.
Drew Smyly is no longer a bullpen reliever, he's graduated to full time starting pitcher status. He's been a starting pitcher before (he's had 18 starts) but that was in 2012 so the number of appearances may be treated with semi-kid gloves to properly acclimate to the new workload.
The bullpen: RHP Evan Reed, LHP Ian Krol, RHP Luke Putkonen, LHP Phil Coke, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Joba Chamberlain, and RHP Joe Nathan
Evan Reed and Luke Putkonen are returning to the Tigers bullpen. Simple as that. They're moderate relievers, if you must have more information, click here. Ian Krol was one of the players acquired from the Nationals in the Fister trade. He will likely be the first left-hander used out of the pen in close games.
Phil Coke is back. I'm sorry, I can't make everyone happy. Anyway, he changed the grip on his breaking ball, courtesy of Joba Chamberlain. As Ausmus put it, "It's more sliderish than slurvish." Coke said he feels more confident with the pitch. We can only hope it carries into the regular season.
Al Alburquerque is busy being Al. He's still sporting the best instagram pictures and pitching well enough to remain part of the Tiger bullpen. He's healthy and we're happy. Let's keep it that way Al. We need some semblance of sanity around here.
Joba (no longer the Hutt) Chamberlain came to the Tigers via free agency from the New York Yankees. During the offseason he lost weight and turned his Tommy John scar into a smiley face. He was competing with Bruce Rondon for the setup position until Rondon fell out for Tommy John surgery. Chamberlain is now the Tigers setup man. Don't screw it up Joba.
Former Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan also came to Detroit through free agency. He's one of the game's best closers, especially now that Mariano River has retired. He's ours and you can't have him! I'm feeling like that selfish kid with all the toys, excuse me. Oh yes, he is healthy and rather spry for an
old young guy of 39 (29 if you are using Torii Hunter's logic).
The lineup: C Alex Avila, C Bryan Holaday, 1B Miguel Cabrera, 2B Ian Kinsler, SS Alex Gonzalez, SS Andrew Romine, 3B Nick Castellanos, LF Rajai Davis, LF Don Kelly, LF Tyler Collins, CF Austin Jackson, RF Torii Hunter, and DH Victor Martinez
Alex Avila and Bryan Holaday are both healthy. It needs to stay that way. Avila sports a mean beard these days and Holaday is the primary backup catcher now that Brayan Pena left for the Cincinnati Reds via free agency. Holaday also has his own swimsuit edition, you should check it out.
Miguel Cabrera is the only infield position player remaining from 2013 and he star-crossed the diamond to take up his old spot at first base. Thursday, Cabrera became the richest sports athlete in the history of, well, ever when he signed an extension that will allow him to retire as a Tiger. He's quite happy about it as you can see here.
Ian Kinsler will take over second base duties as Omar Infante left via free agency to the Kansas City Royals. Kinsler doesn't like his former team, the Texas Rangers, or talking about himself. He can steal bases, hits and plays defense well and isn't a statue replacement. We approve.
Jose Iglesias is out for most, if not all of the 2014 season for bilateral tibial stress fractures. The Tigers played tic-tac-toe with position players until they acquired Alex Gonzalez (Brewers) and Andrew Romine (Angels) through trades. The two will share shortstop but Gonzalez is greedy so he'll get most of the time. We don't think that is fair.
Nick Castellanos took over Miggy's spot at third base. This is his first full year playing in the major leagues so he's a little hit happy right now, you understand. We're still not entirely sure how he pronounces his last name though because he has said it both ways. Stay tuned.
Andy Dirks had lower back surgery. He'll be gone until June. Hey, at least it's not the entire year. Things could be worse. Rajai Davis is filling in for now and Don Kelly is his sidekick. Tyler Collins takes over Dirks' neck-less duties while Dirks recovers and will play backup to Kelly's backup. I'm feeling somewhat redundant.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter (who gets younger by the year somehow) are healthy. Jackson is also hit happy and experimenting with speed again (on the bases. What were you thinking of?) Hunter is the presiding ruler of fun and shenanigans for the Tigers. His
age experience might have something to do with that. Let us hope nobody goes down here, we might keel over of heart failure.
Last but definitely not least is Victor Martinez, who, in addition to his usual designated hitting duties will catch and play first base in select inter-league games because National League teams don't have designated hitters. They always mess up everything. He would like a World Series before he gets too old though and we thought you should know.
The Tigers coaching staff has also seen some major changes. First base coach Omar Vizuel looks and acts as if he could still play shortstop. In fact, the Tigers discussed doing just that but unfortunately that fell through. Wally Joyner (a.k.a. Wally's World) is the new hitting coach, Dave Clark has graduated to third base coach status and Gene Lamont remains the skipper's right hand man.
Well that's it folks, your 2014 Opening Day Detroit Tigers. Try to keep your head on straight as you wallow in the joy of Opening Day when Monday comes around. Remember to arrive early, keep your hands and feet inside of your designated viewing seat at all times and always, always kiss an alligator. Oh wait, that was Torii Hunter.