Can you feel me vibrating from here? The rosters have been set (…kinda), the Mud Hens exhibition has been played, and I have been repeatedly sunburned at games despite my best attempts at sunblock application. You guys, there is actual, non-spring-related Tigers baseball on national television tomorrow afternoon. While I’m at work. Because, you know, why wouldn’t it be while I’m at work?
This means the end of my Tiger watching and new pictures until they come to Tampa in June. I mean, my camera is terrible, but at least they were pictures. As I sit here watching Intentional Talk to psych myself up, I thought it would be fitting to give the spring a little send-off, so here is a completely uninteresting summary of my thoughts on the roster, colored by what I saw down here over the last month.
Starters- Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Fister, and Smyly, in case you forgot. I’m cautiously EXTREMELY excited about this. Cautiously. IF Porcello keeps throwing his slider like he did this spring, IF Scherzer can throw strikes the way he did most of the spring (with the exception of yesterday, what in the WORLD was that??), IF Fister and Verlander are themselves, and of course IF we’re all healthy, we will have a formidable rotation. Smyly has been accused, mostly by twitter, of earning the 5th spot by not walking as many people as Below and Oliver. I was all set a few days ago to mock those people until Smyly suddenly imploded all over himself. So, we’ll see. I predict we’ll see at least two other starts at various points in the season, OR this will be another Armando/Porcello/Verlander situation where we pull someone up early and they have a fantastic year.
Bullpen- Balester, Below (for now), Benoit, Coke, Dotel, Schlereth, Valverde. Marte’s starting the season on the DL because apparently we hadn’t met our DL quota for the month. This also has the potential for awesome. Valverde will blow a save sometime in the first week or so, no biggie. I love Schlereth, I do, but I have concerns. His walks started piling up again by the end of the spring. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Villiarreal within the first few months. I really, really, REALLY like him, and I’m actually surprised Schlereth got the spot over him. Of course, we should also be getting Alburquerque back, so this could get interesting. Not a lot of room to move people up and down, really. Of course, again, my optimism is ridiculously cautious, because this is the Tigers bullpen we’re talking about. There’s History.
Catchers: I mean, Laird and Avila. Given no one’s knees explode, we’re okay. Laird was even hitting this spring! It was beautiful to behold. Many are predicting that Avila’s average will creep down toward earth a bit this year, but with the extra rest Laird can give, I could see it staying about the same. He looked good this spring- healthy and extremely happy. I don’t think I ever saw Avila not smiling and joking with people during work-outs.
Infield: Here’s where I think we have the potential for the most motion during the regular season. We have SO MANY infielders, people. Cabrera, Fielder, Peralta, Santiago, and Worth are listed as opening infielders. Cabrera looked better than I expected he would at third and his hitting like an animal, but again, we have History here. Fielder is Fielder. I was not impressed with his first base playing, but that’s not why we’re eating pizzas for the next 9 years. Santiago was Santiago this spring, and Worth was hitting well but not impressive in the field. I really didn’t see him fielding enough to make a good judgement. HOWEVER, listed under infielders, we have Kelly and Raburn, who also spent a ton of time in the infield. In fact, Raburn is supposed to get the bulk of the playing time at second. Both of them had good springs, Raburn’s spectacular (both hitting and fielding), though he was coming back to earth by the end. I don’t think this was unexpected and I’m not convinced he won’t repeat his pattern of making everyone crazy until July. THEN we have Inge hanging out on the DL, who played insanely well at second but hit in a very Inge manner. As Leyland pointed out, though, he was making good contact, so we’ll see. I’m still not convinced he’ll spend the entire season on our roster.
Outfield: Finally, we have Boesch, Dirks, Jackson, Kelly, Raburn, Clete, and Young. I already talked about Raburn and Kelly. Boesch had a great spring, so I’m excited. Dirks proved why he was a Dominican hero and hit better than I expected. Jackson looked like he was going to repeat last season for half the spring, then started hitting AND taking walks, which made me want to kiss him. I want Delmon to be the DH so, so badly, but he despises the idea. People, he cannot play left well. Watching him make plays over there was painful this spring. In fact, he was heckled several time by Tigers fans. He was hitting so well, though, that I feel like this is another Cabrera situation. Whatever, as long as he’s hitting, right? Clete is an interesting situation. His hitting was hella streaky, but his outfield range was a wonder to behold. In my perfect world, he plays left and Delmon DH’s.
In conclusion, yes, we have some issues, and some of those issues have the potential for flaming disaster, but unless they happen all at once I don’t see them sinking this team. We have remarkable flexibility with the roster, straight down to the minors, and that’s in our favor if we want to keep everyone healthy. While I don’t foresee the need for any big moves down the line, I also didn’t see the need to sign someone like Prince, either, so what do I know? Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see guys like Clete, Inge, or Worth disappear at some point for various reasons. Cautious optimism, yes, but definitely optimism.
On a final note… you guys, the Marlin’s stadium is so tacky. So, so tacky. Do yourself a favor and turn to ESPN right now and feast your eyes upon the home run statue. Words fail me.