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Detroit Tigers Links: Role players have the Tigers atop the AL Central

Andrew Romine’s grand slam was just the most recent example of the bit players coming up big.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

We’re still a long way from the point where conclusions can be reached about the Detroit Tigers in 2017. Early returns have the rotation carrying a lot of the load. Their efforts, racking up seven quality starts in eight games, have put the Tigers in good position. That’s a good sign to those of us who believe they may have one of the better starting rotations in the game. Yet it’s largely been the team’s role players making those starts count. While Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos are rolling, the heart of the Tigers order has been very quiet.

The Tigers know that in their current situation — balanced between having enough talent to do real damage in 2017, but also in a position where selling at the deadline is a real possibility — getting off to a good start is a necessity. So far, they have managed to do so, and in a way that belies the team’s presumed lack of depth. Despite the typical bullpen issues and very quiet bats from Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton, the Tigers are off to a 6-2 start. That would seem to bode well as the big sticks in the heart of the order will no doubt get loose before too long.

The hero on Wednesday was, of course, Andrew Romine, who cracked the first grand slam of his career. Romine has come out on fire with a new approach at the plate. While it won’t last to this degree, the Tigers could be looking at a .500 start if not for the versatile utility man.

Utility players who rake.

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More important to the team’s long-term outlook, Romine has also looked very good in the outfield, particularly in center field. So has rookie JaCoby Jones. Even better, both have produced timely offense to win games in the early going. While neither is expected to produce too much offensively, a position that looked like a real problem entering the season suddenly appears solidified.

Platoon outfielders Tyler Collins and Mikie Mahtook have done similarly well. While neither looks like an everyday option, they have each managed to contribute a big play here or there. Catcher James McCann has taken advantage of favorable matchups in the early going to crush a pair of game-deciding home runs in the first week of play. Without all these contributions, the team could already be in a bit of a hole. Instead, they’re rolling before even scratching the surface of the lineup’s ability to do damage.

Tigers roundup

The Anthony Gose experiment continues to turn some heads. Gose has flashed a nice curveball already, and is now facing live hitting. You never know.

MLive has a feature on Mikie Mahtook’s two key plays in the early going.

Meanwhile, the Tigers continue to add veteran depth in the upper minors by signing former Rays’ first baseman, James Loney.

Forbes magazine released their team valuations for 2017. The Tigers’ value is just fine, checking in at $1.2 billion. However, they also suffered more operating losses last season than any team in baseball. Our own Patrick O’Kennedy has the story.

Ian Kinsler got his first Rawlings Gold Glove before Wednesday’s game. Yes, his first.

Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer hung out with Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to open the new Under Armour store in Detroit.

Around the league

A handsome charcoal gray cat stole the show at a Miami Marlins game the other day. Note to personnel: stop trying to grab a cat in that situation. It ain’t gonna happen. As any cat owner knows, sometimes you just have let them sort things out on their own.

"Cats do not abide by the laws of nature."

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This could have been a rally cat for the Marlins. Unfortunately, Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna made the unfortunate statement that he “detests cats.” And so they will remain cursed for all time. [Ed.: Marcell Ozuna is now my favorite player.]

Former Rangers starter Derek Holland is now with the Chicago White Sox. He and James Shields are both attempting to turn their fading careers around there. On Wednesday, Holland took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians, before Francisco Lindor broke it up. Still, Holland got the victory, and dedicated the game to his grandmother, who passed away during spring training.

Shields and Holland aren’t the only guys trying to right the ship in 2017. Yasiel Puig is off to a great start, with three bombs on the young season already. Jason Heyward is also showing some signs of life for the Cubs. There are two teams who could really use more help.

Way-too-early analysis

Chris Mitchell of FanGraphs tries to stay calm about Padres OF Manny Margot. Dave Cameron looks at former top prospect Byron Buxton and his brutal first week. The Rangers have relied on their bullpen a lot the past two seasons. Things aren’t going well at all this year. And Nicolas Stellini examines Yoenis Cespedes’ night of three dingers.

Mark Davidson of Beyond the Box Score examines Chris Archer’s slider, or sliders. Joe Clarkin observes as Joey Gallo attempts to make the adjustments that could allow him to finally stick in the majors. Patrick Brewer of RO Baseball takes a look at the Rays’ Steven Souza and a potential breakout. Meanwhile, our old friend Joaquin Benoit is closing games again, this time for the Phillies.

Romine is awesome

When you drive in four runs you get the ice bath.

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