(SportsNetwork.com) – The Detroit Tigers have won the last four American
League Central titles, but they enter the 2015 campaign with a lot of question
marks, despite a roster chock full of big names.
They’ll kick off their season on Monday against the Minnesota Twins at
The Tigers closed the 2014 campaign with three former Cy Young Award winners
in their rotation, but Max Scherzer opted to leave as a free agent, leaving
behind Justin Verlander and David Price, who himself can become a free agent
at season’s end, but will start on Monday.
Verlander, who had started the Tigers’ previous seven openers, will open the
year on the DL with a triceps injury. He could be eligible to pitch April 12
Even before Verlander’s injury it had been decided that Price, who has made
three previous Opening Day starts, including the past two with the Tampa Bay
Rays would get this assignment. The 29-year-old lefty finished sixth in
American League Cy Young Award voting in 2014, posting a 3.26 ERA with a major
league-leading 271 strikeouts in a major-league leading 248 1/3 innings.
“I’m honored and it’s definitely a blessing to be out there to throw that
Opening Day,” Price said. “And for it to be home in Comerica Park, I think
that will be pretty special.”
However, you can’t talk about the Tigers and not mention two-time former AL
MVP Miguel Cabrera, who failed to top a .900 OPS last season for the first
time since 2008 and underwent offseason surgeries on his foot and ankle. At
31, the injuries seem to be a little more prevalent.
Cabrera will be aided by the fact that designated hitter Victor Martinez, who
is coming off a career year that netted him a $68 million deal to stay in
Detroit, will begin the season on the active roster after he tore his meniscus
in an offseason workout.
Also providing Cabrera some protection will be new slugger Yoenis Cespedes,
who was acquired from Boston for righty Rick Porcello.
A big reason why the Tigers have not won a World Series with this current
group is their bullpen. Once again that figures to be the team’s Achilles’
heel. Joe Nathan will open the year as the team’s closer, but the Tigers have
Joakim Soria and hard-throwing Bruce Rondon waiting in the wings.
Minnesota, meanwhile, continued to be the doormat of the division, but heads
into this season with renewed optimism thanks to new manager Paul Molitor, the
return of an old star and a batch of young talent ready to start making an
Actually, the Twins should have a pretty decent offense after scoring the
fifth-most runs in the league last season. With a nucleus of Kennys Vargas,
Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana, as well as the returning Aaron Hicks and
Miguel Sano, those numbers should improve.
And let’s not forget the Twins have one of the best young outfield prospects
in baseball in Byron Buxton, who will probably start the year in Double-A, but
provided he stays healthy, could be in the Twins lineup by Memorial Day.
So, who better to have around with all that young talent than 39-year-old
Torii Hunter, who returns to Minnesota, the team that drafted him 21 years
ago. There might not be much left in the tank, but there are few better
professionals than Hunter.
The Twins also added righty Ervin Santana to help a starting staff that last
year was led by Phil Hughes, who will make his first Opening Day start on
Monday. However, Santana was suspended 80 games on Friday for testing positive
for a performance-enhancing drug.
Hughes, who inked a new five-year extension this offseason that will keep in
Minny through 2019, went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts last season, his
first with the Twins. He set a major league record with an 11.63 to 1
strikeout to walk ratio.
Hughes will be Minnesota’s fourth Opening Day starter in the last four years.