One of the most anticipated Detroit Tigers opening days in recent memory is about to happen this Friday.
There are so many questions, concerns, hopes and possibilities it is like rolling dice in a Detroit or Las Vegas gambling hall. You have no idea how it will all turn out. Will we see a glorious return to the magnificent 2006 campaign? Or will the Tigers produce another break your heart season?
Question, questions and more questions is how I see the 2010 season unfolding. I’m a helpless optimist and I can only personally project that the Tigers will “work it out” and give us a real run at Major League Baseball glory during the upcoming season.
It all starts Friday where the Tigers can begin to erase the sour memories and taste they left in the mouths and hearts of their faithful followers last year.
The Tigers took all on a magic carpet ride last year that fell out the sky inches from the hoped for destination. Their effort had all on the edge of their seats as they went down to the wire with Minnesota. Eventually they lost a close one-game elimination season-ending contest to the Twins.
Most were enraged that the Tigers squandered a large lead. I do not feel that way. In my humble opinion no one even expected the Tigers to contend. Sure, when a team gets that close and blows it, it leaves them open for interrogation. I tend to look at last season as an overachievement, especially with all the injuries to the pitching staff.
We have seen what baseball is all about and it will not change this year. It will come down to pitching and more pitching. It will be all about the starters and the relievers. Sure we need the batters to come up with clutch hits and timely at bats. A good team needs both hitting and pitching to challenge for a MLB title.
However, it will rest on the uncertain pitching staff that the Tigers have kept on it’s opening day 24-person roster to carry the major burden of its hopes for a title contending season.
“I’m confident with the roster we have that this team will produce on the field,” manger Jim Leyland told reporters. “The pitchers have shown that they are big league players and if that holds true they will give us the kind of starts that will give us a chance at a win each night.”
The starting five pitching staff is set with Justin Verlander as the team’s would-be ace, sophomore Rick Porcello is set as the number two man, and newly acquired Max Scherzer has become a third man in the rotation.
The fourth and fifth starters, Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman, both are huge question marks. Both were basically out all of last season with assorted injuries, but they were at least serviceable during spring training. With these two men the direction of the team is heavily weighted on their shoulders.
The starters must flow through the game for at least six innings, while giving up three or fewer earned runs. Anything less will be a disaster for the team, because this team in its present form will not overwhelm anyone with its bats. That’s why the backend of the rotation, Willis and Bonderman, are the keys to a season full of questions.
On thing for sure is the Tigers will look like a very different team in 2010. Gone is fan favorite and All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson, 28, along with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, 26. Taking Granderson’s place is a rookie with no big-league experience, Austin Jackson, the new center fielder and leadoff batter.
All-Star second baseman Placido Polanco was allowed to leave via free agency to the Philade phia Phillies. His replacement, Scott Sizemore, has no more experience in the majors than Jackson. Who knows what he will do for a 162 game Big League season?
Also sent packing was reliable pitcher Nate Robertson, who was dealt to the Florida Marlins.
Also important will be the effort of the relief pitchers. Will Joel Zumaya finally produce on all that potential? Can he be the closer that Fernando Rodney was last year? Rodney is gone, so it’s Zumaya or bust.
Questions and more questions are what the Tigers face in this 2010 campaign. Opening day will not answer them all, but it will give us a glimpse of what we will have to endure over the next 161 games.
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.