As it has done in the past, MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” feature spends a day with each major-league team during spring training. They spent St. Patrick’s Day with the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. Here are the highlights:
- The day began with new General Manager Al Avila‘s guest appearance on High Heat, where he discussed Cuban politics (his father was a counter/revolutionary before escaping the island to work in baseball in the United States); the Tigers’ spring injury report (everything’s a short-term injury); and his son’s new team, the Chicago White Sox (no comment on the Williams/LaRoche situation).
- Following the team’s spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals (a Detroit win on a strong outing from Matt Boyd), MLBN’s John Smoltz (a Michigan native and former Tigers draftee) and Eric Byrnes offered their predictions for the team. The former said the Tigers would make the playoffs and compete for the division title, while the latter believes Detroit will win the AL Central.
- The focus then shifted to Smoltz and Heidi Watney’s interviews from Lakeland. First up: Smoltz’s conversation with Justin Verlander, who discussed possible changes to his pitching motion and recovery from core muscle surgery.
- Victor Martinez told Watney that J.D. Martinez is the target of much of Miguel Cabrera’s joking, and he said that his left hamstring will be fine after suffering a strain there this spring. After missing all of spring training last year due to injury, Victor had requested to receive many hitting opportunities this spring and suggested that the hamstring strain was a result of a little too much work this spring.
- Miguel Cabrera said he becomes nervous as the regular season approaches and discussed his enjoyment of the in-game adjustment process he makes as he battles with opposing pitchers.
- Anibal Sanchez told Smoltz that he’s considered some changes to his pitching motion as well, and he said that he doesn’t expect his shoulder– his main bugaboo in recent years– to bother him this year.
- Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who signed a five-year contract with Detroit in the offseason, said that the two main reasons he decided to join the Tigers were the fact that the team expressed interest in him early in his free-agency period and Detroit’s proximity to his hometown of Auburndale, Wisconsin, where he still lives.
- The Tigers’ other big free-agent signing, Justin Upton, was attracted to the team’s winning potential. He said he’s enjoyed working with the team’s other power hitters this spring, even if it took him a few days to acclimate to his new team’s spring training routines.
- The network then shared the results of an online poll about the greatest Tigers moments of the last thirty years, which yielded a tie between Maglio Ordoñez’s walk-off home run that sent the team to the 2006 World Series and Cabrera’s 2012 Triple Crown win:
Byrnes, for his part, couldn’t believe it had been more than thirty years since Kirk Gibson homered off recently-in-the-news Goose Gossage in the 1984 World Series.
- J.D. Martinez explained that his approach to hitting includes some review of video and scouting reports. He believes that sort of preparation can be overdone– “paralysis by analysis”– but never wants to face a pitcher without knowing anything about him. Interestingly, he sees Cabrera and Victor Martinez as two very good hitters who have two very different approaches, although he didn’t elaborate on that point, and he said that, upon joining the Tigers, he learned more in three months from Torii Hunter than he had in all of his prior time spent in the Astros organization.
- Finally, manager Brad Ausmus spoke with Smoltz and Watney about the process of integrating new, veteran players into the team; his own relaxation habits during the season (watching sitcoms); and how Verlander has continued to find success in the second part of his career (improved preparation through video and scouting reports to focus on outsmarting hitters rather than “outstuffing” them).
Although Avila mentioned in his interview referenced above that the team’s spring injuries all were of the short-term variety, it now sounds like Cameron Maybin’s wrist injury will keep the new Tigers outfielder out of the opening-day lineup.