Monday, April 6, 2015

Tigers, Twins send out new Opening Day starters

Opening Day will have a very different look for both the Tigers and Twins when the division foes square off on Monday at Comerica Park.
Even if sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are ready to go following offseason surgeries, the Tigers will still be sending someone other than Justin Verlander to the mound on Opening Day for the first time in eight years. Instead, they will hand the ball to David Price as they open the 2015 season in search of their fifth straight American League Central title.
It marks Price's fourth career Opening Day start -- and first for the Tigers -- as well as the end to Verlander's streak of seven straight season-opening starts.
"It's a tough decision when you have two guys like that," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think I could have gone either way. I could have gone Verlander-Price, but I decided to go Price-Verlander."
As for the Twins, they will be embarking on their first season without Ron Gardenhire at the helm since 2001. Opening Day will instead mark the managerial debut of Paul Molitor, who hammered out a 21-year, Hall of Fame career as a player, including spending his final three seasons with the Twins.
"I'm coming here to win," Molitor said when he took the job this winter. "I think it's very important to lay that out there right from the start. Things can change very dramatically at this level, very quickly."
It won't be an easy task, however, especially playing in a much-improved American League Central -- one of the more competitive divisions in baseball following a frenzied offseason. Last-place finishers in three of the last four seasons, the Twins will be sending a new Opening Day starter of their own to the mound, as Phil Hughes is scheduled to start opposite Price. Hughes will be Minnesota's fourth Opening Day starter in the last four years.
With the pitching matchup seemingly resolved, the key question remaining will be whether or not Cabrera and Martinez find their way into Detroit's lineup. The Tigers remain hopeful that both players will be ready after undergoing offseason surgeries -- Cabrera on his foot and Martinez on his knee -- but their Opening Day statuses are far from certain following late starts this spring.
On the bright side, even if one or both players are to miss the season opener, the Tigers will at least have offseason acquisition Yoenis Cespedes to help pick up the slack. Detroit acquired Cespedes in a busy offseason that also featured the departures of starters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
While the Tigers' exact Opening Day lineup remains undetermined, the one guarantee at this point is that Price will be on the mound looking to cement his status as Detroit's ace.
"I'm extremely honored to take the ball on that day, because it's a very special day in baseball," Price said. "It caught me by surprise, to say the least. I definitely thought it'd be Ver out there. I'm really excited for it."

No comments: