5 reasons my trip to Detroit Tigers spring training made me more excited for the season

We are 12 days away from opening day for the Tigers at Comerica Park. Here’s why my trip to spring training this year makes me even more excited about Tigers baseball.

AJ Hinch

Hinch showed what a valuable manager he was last year. With his training, the Tigers have won 77 games. Add to the new talent acquired this offseason, I expect the Tigers to earn even more. He is a very good manager. He also seems to be a manager his players enjoy being around.

While I was at Lakeland, there were a lot of jokes and you could tell that all the players, including the youngsters, felt comfortable with him. He’s created a culture in the clubhouse where special moments are celebrated (Spencer Turnbull giving Eric Haase a Rolex for catching his no-hitter) and where you can roast a Cy Young Award winner (Roger Clemens took the speak at the Tigers morning meeting and they showed a video of 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera homering against Clemens in the 2003 World Series) A ​​fun clubhouse leads to a loose team on the field.

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Will that translate into winning the division like everyone told me that was the goal this year? We’ll see. Also, I don’t know if it was Hinch’s decision on the music for batting practice, but it was in the late 90s and early 2000s and I really identified with that.

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera came to spring training in the best shape of his life. I’m joking. I cannot confirm it. But he seemed to be in good spirits and embracing Hinch and the team’s leadership. Hinch said of Miggy last year, “He bought from the start.

This year, it looks like Miggy is continuing that trend. He was quoted as saying he was happy to give up the first base spot if it meant 2020 number one pick Spencer Torkelson made the team.

Every player told me that Miggy ran the locker room. I mean, there’s a quote on the Clubhouse wall: “Less talk, more work” attributed to Cabrera. Akil Baddoo told me that whenever he needed advice he could go straight to Miguel’s locker. In the penultimate year of his contract, it looks like the veteran Cabrera is teaching, leading and embracing that team attitude.

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Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene

Seems to me like these two are ready to make the Big League roster. Both told me last week that they felt ready, but ultimately the decision to play on opening day is not theirs. Well… they’re doing everything they can to force the hand of the Tigers.

Green was hitting .333 in seven spring training games. Tork is hitting .313 in seven games.

When I spoke to both guys, it didn’t seem like this moment was too big or that they felt too much pressure. Credit to Hinch and clubhouse culture.

Jamie Edmonds in spring training. (WDIV)

New Tiger rotation

The Tigers rotation looks like this: Eduardo Rodriguez, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Michael Pineda. I like the bookends when the veterans come in.

Rodriguez signed a 5-year contract with the Tigers. Last season, he was 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA. Not nearly what he is capable of. He missed all of 2020 due to covid-related illness. But if you look at his 2019, he was 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and finished sixth in American League Cy Young voting.

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Pineda comes to the Tigers from the Twins on a one-year contract. He was 9-8 with a 3.62 ERA last season. He had a good September with a 5-0 record. Skubal told me in Lakeland that he already looks to Rodriguez for tips and advice. That was before the Tigers signed Pineda. With two veterans entrenched in the rotation, the youngsters have the opportunity to grow and improve.

The Tigers spent the money

The Tigers were buyers again. They went out and got a receiver in Tucker Barnhart, a shortstop in Javier Baez, two starting pitchers (see #4) and added a reliever in Andrew Chafin.

Did they get Carlos Correa? No. He’s going to the Twins. This one hurts.

Did they get Zack Greinke? No. He returned to the royal family. Al Avila told me the Tigers were in on Greinke. He said money was not an issue, but Greinke chose KC for personal reasons.

In total, the Tigers have spent more than $200 million this offseason. This is a good thing. Could they spend more? Absoutely. Let’s see how this range works to start the season. Avila told me that if the Tigers were in contention near the trade deadline, they could be buyers again.

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Honorable Mention To Do List: Andrew Chafin, the reliever added the bullpen. He seems like a really funny guy. He’s an Ohio farmer who buys and sells livestock and loves the outdoors. I think he’ll be a great addition to the bullpen and an even better addition to the clubhouse postgame interview.

Who’s ready for April 8? See you at Comerica Park!

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Richard V. Johnson