Wednesday, March 08, 2006

5 Things To Know About The Tigers

1. Among the things Detroit must fix if it's to snap a streak of 12 consecutive sub-.500 seasons is its defense. The Tigers have finished last in the AL in defense in three of the past four seasons. "That won't work, if you don't pitch it and catch it," new manager Jim Leyland says. "You'll have some winning streaks when you slug it but, overall, you're going to get your ass beat."

2. Tell that to Nate Robertson. The big left-hander's 16 losses last season tied for second-most in the AL, and his .304 winning percentage was fourth-lowest in the AL ... yet, the 15 unearned runs Robertson allowed tied for third-most in the AL, and 10 batters reached base because of fielding errors when Robertson was pitching -- tied for sixth-most in the AL. He also ranked third in worst-run support in the AL at 3.36 runs per nine innings. So if you're looking for a starting pitcher who could have a solid bounce-back year ...

3. The Tigers are attempting to thin out their overload of players who play first base and designated hitter. Dmitri Young, Carlos Pena and Chris Shelton all fit the same stereotype. In a perfect world this season, Young will play a little first, a little DH, a little third base and possibly even a bit in the outfield. Shelton, originally obtained by Detroit as a Rule V pick from Pittsburgh in December 2003, put himself on the map last season by batting .299 with 18 homers and 59 RBI in 107 games. Unless he has a lights-out spring, Pena appears to be the odd man out.

4. Finally, after a long drought, the Tigers scouting department and farm system might produce an arm or two for the big league club. Justin Verlander, recently named No. 8 on Baseball America's list of the game's top 100 prospects, and Joel Zumaya, named 35th, are competing for the fifth starter's job. Zumaya hit 99 mph on the speed gun Saturday in Winter Haven while Verlander touched 98 on Friday in Sarasota. The Tigers' first four starters are set: Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson. Along with Verlander, the No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft, and Zumaya, an 11th-rounder in '02, Roman Colon and Wil Ledezma are also vying for the fifth starter's slot.

5. This is the Tigers' 70th spring in Lakeland. It's the longest-running relationship between a major league club and its spring city in the majors.
Odds to win the World Series +10000.

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