The Detroit Tigers have now reported to Lakeland, Florida, for the 2018 spring training season. The team has entered a rebuilding phase with its many new faces, including manager Ron Gardenhire.
The pitching staff includes Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, Jordan Zimmerman, and Mike Fiers in the starting rotation. Shane Greene, Alex Wilson, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen, Joe Jimenez, Warwick Saupold, and Blaine Hardy make up the bullpen. The Tigers have also signed Ryan Carpenter and Travis Wood as starters.
This spring training will be different for the Tigers as this is the most change they’ve made in almost a decade. Players are being asked to play different positions due to the many trades leaving spots open. There will be a lot of focus on developing the younger pitchers within the pitching staff, as well as patience during the rebuilding process.
Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd have the most to prove amongst the staff, as they will both be working to find their spot in the rotation. Both pitchers need to become more consistent to keep their spots. Norris has been successful when he has been able to stay healthy. The signing of Carpenter and Wood have created more depth within the starters, as well as more competition for Norris and Boyd in order to challenge them throughout the spring.
Wilson, who served as a durable reliever the last three seasons, will also be working out as a starting pitcher to potentially gain a spot in the rotation. Wilson came up with this idea on his own after the end of last season, and after some debate, the Tigers agreed. Wilson began his career as a starter with the Boston Red Sox. This opens up more potential for change in the starting rotation.
The bullpen is very open-ended with only Greene and Wilson, if Wilson doesn’t get a spot in the rotation, being the only pitchers who are almost assured to make the team. Stumpf will also be likely to make the bullpen based on his successful 2017 season. There will be a lot of focus on developing the young pitcher Jimenez, who had a 1.68 ERA and 0.80 WHIP between Class A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo.
Chad Bell and Buck Farmer will also have a swing starter role, meaning they could have spot starts and also be used for long relief pitching. This could cause more change in the starting rotation as well.
There is also some anticipation around the Tigers’ first-round pick, Alex Faedo, after leading the University of Florida to a 2017 College World Series championship. Although Faedo will not be making it to the majors right out of spring training, he has the potential to make it sooner than expected depending on his performance during spring training.
There are also many defensive changes being made this season as there are only three recognizable veterans: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos will be moving from third base to right field due to the addition of Jeimer Candelario, who is expected to be the new starting third basemen. This move is also being made to lessen the defensive pressure on Castellanos in order to improve offensively. Mikie Mahtook, Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes will also be joining Castellanos in the outfield.
For the infield, Cabrera will remain at first base. Martinez has been used as a first baseman in the past but will continue to be the main designated hitter. Dixon Machado will be replacing Ian Kinsler, who was traded to the Angels during the winter, at second base. Jose Iglesias will continue his role at shortstop. James McCann and John Hicks will catch, but Hicks may be used more for his offense while McCann will be the main catcher.
The Tigers Defeated Florida Southern College on Thursday, 6-1. They play their first official game against the New York Yankees on Friday.
Photo courtesy of Dan Marowski.