|By George B. Eichorn|
The mere thought of it beckons a civic holiday atmosphere in downtown Detroit. Thursday, April 4 promises to be another celebration as the city welcome homes its beloved Detroit Tigers as they kick off their 20th
season in Comerica Park.
From Openers to World Series, from no-hitters to an All-Star Game, from
jersey retirements to championship reunions, Comerica Park has been a
fabric of Detroit sports accomplishments. “Bringing You Summer Since
1901” is the 2019 marketing theme.
The Tigers open their season with a four-game road series in Toronto
against the Blue Jays in Rogers Centre. Then comes a series in the Bronx
against the New York Yankees. Fans hope the team can do well in the
road opening series before hosting the Kansas City Royals on April 4.
The team hopes to avoid another 98-loss season. No one wants to win
more than the Ilitch family, club management, manager Rod Gardenhire and the roster of players. The Detroit District is a crown jewel of the
organization and winning makes everyone – including loyal Tiger fans – happier and more likely to support a rebuilding franchise.
GM Al Avila and Gardenhire have made final roster cuts yet the vast
majority of the key positions were locks.
The starting pitchers will include veteran Jordan Zimmerman (who needs a bounce back season), Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, newcomers
Tyson Ross and Matt Moore and (when healthy) Michael Fulmer.
In the bullpen, Shane Greene (closer), Joe Jimenez (set-up), Drew
VerHagen (injured) and Blaine Hardy are expected to lead the charge.
Victor Alcantara, Reed Garrett (Rule 5), Daniel Norris, Daniel Stumpf and Buck Farmer also will pitch in relief. Zac Reininger, Louis Coleman and
Jose Fernandez figure in the call-up plans during the season.
Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera leads the infield, playing first place and designated hitter. Newcomers from the Pittsburgh Pirates comprise
the keystone combination at second base, Josh Harrison, and shortstop,
Jordy Mercer. Jeimer Candelario is the young third baseman. Niko
Goodrum and Gordon Beckham are key utility players.
Grayson Greiner and John Hicks are the catchers as James McCann was
let go and rookie Jake Rogers requires more seasoning in Erie and/or
Toledo. Hicks also sees action as a DH or at first base.
The Tigers outfield is led by veteran Nicholas Castellanos in right but the club would trade him if the right offer comes along as it’s the final year
of his contract. Hots hot rookie Christin Stewart is in left field with Mikie Mahtook, Goodrum or Dustin Peterson. JaCoby Jones started the season
on the injured list.
There’s was a spirited competition at the club’s sprawling Lakeland,
Florida training complex. Youngsters were pushing veterans for attention and that’s a good thing. The club is stocked with plenty of young players
at the Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A level who are within a year or
more of helping the major league club.
Avila and his staff have wisely dealt many of the team stars like Justin
Verlander, J.D. Martinez and David Price in hopes of landing youngsters who may be cornerstones for another run at greatness. With just two
World Series appearances (both defeats) since the last World
Championship in 1984, fans are thirsting for winning baseball in the
The team’s promotions calendar is crowded starting with a free “Love
Your Melon” beanie on April 6 and continuing through a “Print All Over
Shirt” on September 21. Trapper hats, carry-on bags, Cabrera picture
frames, Detroit Stars replica jerseys, Sparky Anderson bobbleheads,
floppy hats, mini-bats, tote bags, koozies, coolers, a kid’s school lunch box and PAWS PJ pants are given away. Yet it’s on the on-field product that
deserves most of the attention.
Finally, the Tigers have a new Fox Sports Detroit crew with Matt Shepard teaming with either Kirk Gibson or Jack Morris, 1984 Champions. Dan
Petry, Craig Monroe, Trevor Thompson (Detroit Sports Media President),
Johnny Kane, Mickey York, and John Keating also contribute on FSD. Dan Dickerson and Jim Price return on WXYT-FM 97.1 with Jeff Riger on most pre-game and post-game shows.
Reach George Eichorn at email@example.com.
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