The Cleveland Indians will take on the Detroit Tigers in their first homestand of the season, beginning with the Home Opener on Friday. But before Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the Motor City crew get to Cleveland, it’s worth taking a look to see what type of competition awaits the Indians.
The Tigers have made the postseason each of the last four seasons, although few have predicted them to win the division this year. The loss of Max Scherzer and Torii Hunter were notable, but so were several promising off-season additions. Will the team be better or worse?
After Justin Verlander returns from the disabled list, what can we expect from him this season?
DH: Originally, I expected Verlander to have a bounce-back season, but this recent injury has doubt creeping into all of our minds. Verlander has lost velocity on his fastball each season, dating back to 2012, which was the year after he won the AL MVP.
In order for him to be great again, he needs to learn how to pitch with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s. He has the stuff in order to do that, so at this point, I think it’s more of a mental thing for him. He should have an ERA below 4.00, around 170 strikeouts, and he’ll pitch close to 200 innings again.
Who will be the Tigers’ MVP this year?
DH: Miguel Cabrera. He could once again with the AL MVP. Cabrera hit .313 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI last season, and it was considered a “down season”. He will hit more than 30 homers again, with over 100 runs and 100 RBI, while batting at least .315. Without him, who knows where this Tigers team would be?
Apr 6, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) hits a triple in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
What kind of impacts will new additions Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose have?
DH: With manager Brad Ausmus, speed has been a bigger focal point for the Tigers, and Cespedes and Gose add to that. Detroit went from 35 stolen bases in Jim Leyland‘s last season in 2014 to 106 in Ausmus’ first season in 2014. The addition of Ian Kinsler certainly helped, but Ausmus also likes to run on the bases, whereas Leyland did not.
Cespedes and Gose will add another dimension to the Tigers’ offense that it has been mostly missing the last four years. This team will no longer have to wait for the three-run home run, because guys like Cespedes, Kinsler, Gose, Rajai Davis and Jose Iglesias can steal bases, score from second on a single, score from first on a double and manufacture runs on sacrifice flies.
It was also made clear on Opening Day that Cespedes is an upgrade defensively. He robbed a home run off of the bat of Kurt Suzuki in the third inning.
Which Detroit rookie is poised to have the biggest year?
This is a veteran team, so there aren’t too many rookies, butJames McCann
comes to mind when thinking about a youngster who could have an impact. McCann is going to be the backup catcher behindAlex Avila
, but Avila hasn’t played more than 124 games since 2011, so McCann should see plenty of time.
Even if Avila is healthy the whole season, McCann could still play 50 games because the Tigers would like to keep Avila fresh for the second half. Avila has been a great hitting catcher in the past, but in the last three years, he’s just been too banged up in August and September. McCann should see lots of time and help solve that issue.
And last but not least: You decided to take a quick ride of the Comerica Park Ferris wheel, but it breaks down and you end up trapped at the top. Which Tiger would you most like to be stuck with and why?
DH: Cabrera has always been one of my favorite players, but I have to go with Verlander. The guy is a boss. He took that selfie in line at Starbucks with the kid wearing his shirt in the background and posted it on Instagram. Of course, he talked to the kid, too, making his day. Verlander just seems really funny and would be a fun guy to chat with, especially in a Ferris wheel. Maybe that woman he’s dating will be stuck in the Ferris wheel with us, but actually, I’d rather have some one-on-one time with Justin.