The Tigers 2013 spring schedule will begin February 22nd.
The Detroit Tigers announced the club's 2013 spring training schedule today.  Next year will mark the team's 77th season at Tigertown.

      Day        Date                 Opponent             Site                Time
  • Fri.         February 22     Atlanta                 Disney World         1:05
  • Sat.        February 23     Toronto                 Lakeland               1:05
  • Sun.       February 24      Philadelphia         Lakeland               1:05
  • Mon.       February 25      Philadelphia        Clearwater             1:05
  • Tues.      February 26      Houston (SS)       Kissimmee            TBA
  • Wed       February 27      Atlanta                 Lakeland              1:05
  • Thurs      February 28      Tampa Bay           Port Charlotte       1:05
  • Fri.         March 1            New York Mets     Port St. Lucie       1:10
  • Sat.        March 2            Pittsburgh            Lakeland              1:05
  •                                       NY Yankees        Tampa                  1:05
  • Sun.       March 3             Atlanta                Disney World       1:05
  • Mon        March 4            Houston               Lakeland             1:05
  • Tues.      March 5                 O P E N D A T E
  • Wed.      March 6            Toronto                 Lakeland              1:05
  • Thurs      March 7            Atlanta                 Disney World        6:05
  • Fri.         March 8            New York Mets     Lakeland              1:05
  • Sat.        March 9            Toronto                Dunedin               1:05
  • Sun.       March 10          Washington          Lakeland              1:05
  • Mon.       March 11          New York Mets    Lakeland               1:05
  • Tues.      March 12          Philadelphia         Clearwater            1:05
  • Wed.      March 13          Florida Southern   Lakeland              1:05
  • Thurs.     March 14          New York Mets     Port St. Lucie      1:10
  • Fri.         March 15          Toronto                 Lakeland             1:05
  • Sat.        March 16         St. Louis               Jupiter                 1:05
  • Sun.       March 17          Washington          Lakeland              1:05
  • Mon.       March 18         Washington           Viera                   1:05
  • Tues.      March 19         Tampa Bay            Lakeland              1:05
  • Wed.      March 20       O P E N D A T E
  • Thurs.     March 21        Houston                Lakeland                6:05
  • Fri.         March 22        Washington           Viera                     1:05
  • Sat.        March 23        Ny Yankees           Lakeland               1:05
  • Sun.       March 24        New York Mets (SS) Port St. Lucie      1:10
  • Mon.       March 25        Miami                   Jupiter                  1:05
  • Tues.      March 26        Atlanta                  Lakeland              1:05
  • Wed.      March 27        Philadelphia           Lakeland              1:05
  • Thu.        March 28        Houston (SS)        Kissimmee            TBA
  • Fri.         March 29        Tampa Bay           Lakeland               1:05
  • Sat.        March 30        Tampa Bay          Tropicana Field       1:05

Tigers prospect Avisail Garcia.
It was a mid-March conversation in Jim Leyland's spring training office in Lakeland.  The skipper had just watched Avisail Garcia show off his skills in the first two weeks of camp.

Leyland's assessment of the young talent hinted that he was impressed with what he saw.   

“He has all the tools," Leyland said that day.  "He should be an above-average big league player."  When pressed, Leyland did admit, “He’s not ready for this (big leagues) yet if that’s what you’re asking."

I'm not sure if Leyland has changed his mind, but fast forward to late August, and Garcia surely made an impression when he was added to the Tigers 25-man roster on August 31st.

After earning the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year Award this season, the Tigers moved to place him on the roster just in time to make him eligible for the post season. 

His skills were on display, as he showed a terrific arm in right and a competent bat.

Garcia displayed no signs of intimidation during his first taste of major league life.  He hit .319 in his first 23 major league games, and was 5-11 in four ALCS games against the Yankees with 3 RBI's.

Is he ready for an expanded role in the big leagues in 2013?  We still don't know for sure, but the next month will provide us with some clues.  Garcia is spending the off season playing winter ball in Venezuela, against top notch competition.

Garcia is expected to hit for power at the major league level.  His 6-4 240 pound frame points to the probability.  Yet, in 76 major league plate appearances in 2012 (including the post season), he had just one extra base hit. 

While the lack of power was noticeable, so was his ability to go the other way.  Of his 15 hits in the regular season, 11 were hit to center or to right field.  Pretty impressive for a young hitter.

Each off season, Venezuela is one of the winter destinations for the game's top prospects.  This season is no different.  The Royals Jeremy Jefress, the Phillies Darin Ruf, Carlos Sanchez of the White Sox and the Tigers Bruce Rondon, to name a few, are all playing in Venezuela.

The competition will be good, and if Garcia can shine, he becomes a real candidate to break camp with the Tigers in 2013.

Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke are the top free agents available this off season.
When the Tigers signed Torii Hunter to a two year, free agent contract shortly after the World Series ended, one valuable piece had been taken off the board.  However, as the Winter Meetings approach, there are plenty of stars waiting to see where they will be employed in 2013.

The Top pitcher on the board is Zach Greinke.  The talented right-hander will command some lofty bucks and multiple years.  He just may become the highest paid right-hander in the game.  Greinke was 15-5 last year with 200 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings with the Brewers and Angels last season.

On the offensive side of the board, Texas star Josh Hamilton will also be in for a big pay day despite his past personal problems.  Hamilton belted 43 homers and knocked in 128 runs in 2012.  The question is whether he will remain in Texas where his career took off under skipper Ron Washington.

Here is a list of some of just the top free agents available this off season.  Click on players name for career stats.

Position Players

Josh Hamilton Rangers  OF
Michael Bourn Braves  OF
B.J. Upton Rays  OF
Nick Swisher Yankees  OF
Mike Napoli Rangers  C
Angel Pagan Giants  OF
Adam LaRoche Nationals  1B
Shane Victorino Dodgers  OF
A.J. Pierzynski White Sox  C

Stephen Drew Athletics SS
Marco Scutaro Giants 2B
Ryan Ludwick Reds OF
Kevein Youkilis White Sox 3B
Ichiro Suzuki Yankees OF


Zack Greinke Angels
Kyle Lohse Cardinals
Edwin Jackson Nationals
Brandon McCarthy Athletics
Anibal Sanchez Tigers
Ryan Dempster Rangers
Shaun Marcum Brewers
Jeff Francis Rockies
Mariano Rivera Yankees
Dan Haren Angels
Joe Blanton Dodgers
Jonathan Broxton Reds
Francisco Liriano White Sox
Jose Valverde Tigers
Kevin Correia Pirates
Bruce Rondon
One of the leading candidates to close games for the Tigers in 2013 has been added to the club's 40-man roster.

Bruce Rondon, 21, was the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the year last season, striking out 66 batters in 53 innings at three separate stops in the system.  Rondon pitched at Lakeland, Erie and Toledo in 2012 and recorded at total of 29 saves.  Hew also pitched for the World Team in the futures game in Kansas City, showcasing a fasball that tops triple digits.

Rondon will get an opportunity this spring to win the closer's job following the departure of Jose Valverde.

The Tigers also purchased the contracts of RHP Melvin Mercedes (0-3 2.80 9 saves at West Michigan) and SS Dixon Machado (.195-2-37 23 SB at Lakeland.)

The much anticipated move of releasing Ryan Raburn brings to an end the Tigers career of the former utility man who struggled all of 2013, hitting .171 in 66 games.  Unfortunately for Raburn, he will be remembered more for his 2012 numbers instead of the solid, productive campaigns he posted in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

With the addition of Torii Hunter this week, the Tigers added a proven veteran bat that will shore up two deficiencies in last year's lineup.  The Tigers searched the entire season for a consistent two-hole hitter and some pop as well from right field.  Hunter should fill both voids.

Hunter's addition should fortify the Tigers 2013 lineup and help them avoid the prolonged lapses that plagued the offense in 2012, especially in the post season.

Here is an extremely early look at what the Tigers 2013 lineup could look like.

1.  Austin Jackson (CF)--A.J. had the best year of his career.  After taking a step back is his second season, Jackson posted career highs in average (.300), home runs (16), RBI (66), OBP (.377) and SLG (.479) last year.  Perhaps the biggest improvement game in the area of plate discipline.  Jackson cut down his strike outs from 181 to 134 in 2012.  With the artillery behind him in the lineup he should easily score at least 100 runs for the third time in his young career.

2.  Torii Hunter (RF)--At age 37, Hunter had one of his finest seasons last year for the Angels.  Tigers right fielders combined to hit ,235-13-36 in 2012.  Hunter hit .313-16-92.  Hunter will be 38 next season, so eventually the numbers will decline, but Hunter keeps himself in terrific shape and no one competes harder.  The hope is that his age will not be a factor.

3.  Miguel Cabrera (3B)--MVP of the American League and Triple Crown winner, Cabrera has established himself as perhaps the top hitter in the game.  Hunter's arrival should provide him with more RBI opportunities.

4.  Prince Fielder (1B)--In his first year in Detroit, Fielder provided  Cabrera with the type of protection that Victor Martinez did in 2011.  Fielder joined Cabrera to give the Tigers a pair of 100 RBI bats in the middle of the lineup.  Fielder also posted an OBP of over .400 for the fourth consecutive year.

5.  Victor Martinez (DH)--The return of Martinez to the lineup after missing all of 2012 potentially gives the Tigers an unmatched 3-4-5 in baseball.  Victor hit .330 and knocked in 103 runs in 2011 before tearing up his knee in the off season leading up to last season.  The Tigers assume he will return to his previous levels, and if he does, opposing pitchers may come down with the flu if they are scheduled to start against Detroit.

6.  Andy Dirks (LF)-- Dirks hit .322 last year in just 88 games.  An Achilles injury limited his playing time and an injury-free season in 2013 could lead to a big season.  Dirks has proven he can hit big league pitching, now he just needs to prove he can stay healthy and in the lineup.

7.  Jhonny Peralta (SS)--Peralta's numbers took a bit of a dive in 2012.  His averaged dropped 30 points form his 2011 level and he hit 8 fewer home runs.  Yet, he was impressive in the ALDS and the ALCS and showed improved range as well in the post season.  The Tigers picked up his option following the World Series, and barring a trade, they feel he can continue to handle the position.  After all, Peralta is still only 30 years-old.

8.  Alex Avila (C)--After an all star season in 2011, Avila took a step back offensively in 2012.  His RBI numbers dropped from 82 in 2011 to just 48 last season, but Avila also had nearly 100 fewer at bats with Gerald Laird as his back-up.  My feeling is that 2011 was no fluke and his numbers in 2013 should closer resemble those totals.

9.  Omar Infante (2B)--The trade that brought Infante back to Detroit at last year's deadline with Anibal Sanchez was a key factor in the Tigers advancing to the World Series.  Even if Sanchez signs elsewhere for 2013, Infante remains and eliminates a season-long headache Jim Leyland endured at second base last year.  Infante hit a solid .274 with double digit home run power in Miami and Detroit combined last season,  He also gave the Tigers a bit of a speed element with 17 stolen bases.

This is how the Tigers lineup may look as the team stands now.  Then again, it's not even December and a lot can change between now and April 1st in Minnesota.
Torii Hunter was officially introduced to the Detroit media Friday after signing a two year deal with the Tigers.

Hunter has spent 14 seasons in the major leagues and is known as one of the most popular players in the game with both fans and the media.

A four-time all star, Hunter has captured nine Gold Glove Awards and in his age 37 season last year, he hit over .300 for the first time in his career.

Here are some other facts about Hunter that you may not know.

**He grew up in Pine Bluff Arkansas and starred on the gridiron in his first love, football.  Hunter was a quarterback and free safety.  He also excelled in basketball and track.

**For as good as Hunter was in high school, he was not the best athlete at Pine Bluff High.   That honor belonged to his friend Basil Shabazz, who was considered one of the best prep talents in Arkansas history.

**Scouts would often come to see Shabazz play baseball and soon scouts would notice Hunter as well.

**He was selected by the Twins in the first round of the 1993 draft.

**In 1992 he was named to the U.S. Junior Olympic Baseball team that would compete in Korea.  Hunter didn't have the money to cover expenses, so he wrote then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who sent him a check for $500.

**In 2003, Hunter gave his Gold Glove Award to Twins coach Jerry White, as a thank you for helping him become one of the best defenders in baseball.

It had been one of the most talked about decisions in the 2012 baseball season.  How would the voting for the A.L. MVP land? 

Two candidates emerged as the season progressed.  Both were deserving, one more so.  Miguel Cabrera brought home the hardware, outdistancing Angels phenom Mike Trout.  In my estimation, the correct decision was made.

Trout had an unprecedented year in many ways.  At the tender age of 20, he showcased a blend of skills that hasn't been seen in a player his age in a long time.  Power, speed and gold glove caliber defense in center field.   Trout led the league in runs scored and stolen bases and had an on base percentage of almost .400.

He is unquestionably one of the premier young talents int he game today.  The undisputed Rookie of the Year. 

MVP?  Almost.  That award belongs to Miguel Cabrera.

Still, some who over analyze the game through advanced statistics doggedly claim that Trout is the true MVP.

For those folks, I raise a few questions.

How can a player accomplish something (Triple Crown) that hasn't been done since 1967 not win the award?  After all, he did hit more home runs, hit for a higher average and knock in more runs than anyone in the league.  While these do not qualify as advanced statistics anymore, that does not diminish their value.  A batting title is still a batting title.  A home run title is still a home run title.

Why have we devalued the human element of the game in favor of raw numbers?  Last week, Cabrera won the Players Choice Award for the American League's Outstanding Player and the Player of the Year, which is for both leagues.  Those awards are chosen by players, not writers.  In other words, those that compete against Cabrera on the field voted him the best player in the game.  No stats involved, just respect from peers who compete on a nightly basis against him.

When did we take the "V" out of MVP?  There is no denying that Cabrera sprinted to the finish line in 2012, leading the Tigers to a division title and eventually a spot in the World Series.  True, the Angels won more games than the Tigers, but Cabrera put his team on his back in crunch time.  I actually was leaning toward Trout until I witnessed what Cabrera did the final month and a half of the season.  Consider these September numbers, with playoff berths on the line:

Trout:          ,289 AVG  5 HR  9 RBI   .400 OBP  .900 OPS
Cabrera:     .333 AVG  11HR  33RBI  .395 OBP 1.071 OPS

Late in the season as the debate intensified, I polled opposing managers and scouts.  The question was simple, who is the MVP?  Almost universally, the answer was Cabrera.  Hardly a representative sample of the entire league, but telling nonetheless.  Those managers and scouts made their decisions based on what they saw with their eyes, not a myriad of stats and statistical formulas.

Seventeen times this year, opposing managers decided they would rather pitch to Prince Fielder than Miguel Cabrera.  Trout meanwhile was walked intentionally only 4 times this year.  Even with Fielder sitting behind him in the lineup, managers passed on pitching to Cabrera in key situations.

Two great players.  One debate that may never end.

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.
Until today, the Tigers had not had a third baseman win the Silver Slugger Award since 1999.  Today, Miguel Cabrera joined Dean Palmer as the only two Tigers to win the award as third basemen.

Cabrera and Prince Fielder (first base) were both selected as Silver Slugger Award winners as the top offensive players at their positions.  For Cabrera, it was his fourth time he has won the award.  For Fielder, it was his 3rd selection.

Below is a complete list of Tigers Silver Slugger Award winners since the award was first handed out in 1980.  Fielder joins his dad Cecil who won the award twice.

1980 Lance Parrish C
1982 Lance Parrish C
         Lou Whitaker 2B
1983 Lance Parrish C
         Lou Whitaker 2B
1984 Lance Parrish C
         Lou Whitaker 2B
1985 Lou Whitaker 2B
1986 Lance Parrish C
1987 Matt Nokes C
         Lou Whitaker 2B
         Alan Trammell SS
1988 Alan Trammell SS
1990 Cecil Fielder 1B
         Alan Trammell SS
1991 Mickey Tettleton C
         Cecil Fielder 1B
1992 Mickey Tettleton C
         Travis Fryman SS
1998 Damion Easley 2B
1999 Dean Palmer 3B
2004 Ivan Rodriguez C
2007 Magglio Ordonez OF
         Placido Polanco 2B
2010 Miguel Cabrera 1B
2011 Alex Avila C

Anibal Sanchez
When Anibal Sanchez was acquired from the Miami Marlins in July, the early returns were less than impressive.  Sanchez struggled to get acclimated in his new uniform, going 1-3 with an ERA just south of 8.00 in his first four starts.

Once Sanchez righted the ship, he became the pitcher the Tigers thought they were getting when they acquired him in a deal involving top pitching prospect Jacob Turner.

Sanchez dominated over his last eight Tigers starts, posting a 2.15 ERA with 44 strikeouts and only 7 walks in that stretch.  In doing so, he also proved that he could make the transition from the National League to the American League.

The Tigers knew that Sanchez was a free-agent-to-be when they acquired him and perhaps originally viewed him as a short term rental with the hopes he could help them win a World Series title.

Sanchez very nearly helped the Tigers win the ultimate prize, and in doing so probably earned himself a rather large payday this off season.  The only question is, who will be signing his checks over the next several years?

The post season can help free agents add dollars and years to their next contract and it appears Sanchez did just that.  The right-hander allowed a total of just 4 runs in in his three post season starts.

Let the bidding begin.

The Tigers rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Sanchez was very good in the post season.  Keeping Sanchez in a Tigers uniform would keep an outstanding rotation intact heading into 2013. 

The Tigers will certainly be involved in the bidding and it will be interesting to see what Sanchez will command.

Indications are that Sanchez will earn at least $12 million per year on the open market, and perhaps more.  Zach Greinke is the only free agent pitcher available this year that is rated higher. 

While having Sanchez for the stretch run last year could give the Tigers a leg up in the process, keep in mind that this is his first foray into free agency and ultimately he has to take care of his family first. 

Still, it is fun to think about the Tigers 2013 rotation with Sanchez included.

Miguel Cabrera has the respect of his peers.
In my estimation,  the top honor anyone can receive is the respect of your peers.  Today, Miguel Cabrera was voted the 2012 Player of the Year and  American League Outstanding Player.

Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI's, good enough to win the American League triple Crown.

Voting for the 2012 Players Choice Awards was conducted in September.

Cabrera's numbers were achieved in a season in which he also switched positions defensively, moving from first to third base in spring training.  The added pressure of proving to the baseball world that he could handle the pressure of the move had little effect.

Cabrera's .966 fielding percentage was third best among everyday American League third basemen.  Cabrera also started 154 games at third this season, the most in the A.L.

Cabrera also earned $70,000 for his charitable foundation for winning the awards, $20,000 for winning the AL outstanding player and $50,000 for overall player of the year.

Next up, the league MVP awards.  Those will be announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America on November 15th.  That race figures to be between Cabrera and the Angels Mike Trout.