Tuesday, April 5, 2016

With 'plenty left,' Verlander takes hill in Miami

The Tigers and Marlins get the season underway on Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. ET with the first game of a two-game Interleague set at Marlins Park, and both teams are confident following some new additions.
The Marlins have a new manager in Don Mattingly, a new hitting coach in Barry Bonds and even a new Opening Day starter, free-agent signee Wei-Yin Chen.
The left-handed Chen will face long-time Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who was injured for part of last season but is feeling strong after a healthy spring.
"As long as my mechanics are good, I think I proved last year that there's plenty left in the tank," the right-handed Verlander said.
The goal for the Marlins is to improve their run production and, congruently, their wins total. Miami finished fourth in the National League last season with a .260 team batting average but 14th out of 15 with 613 runs scored. Consequently, they lost 91 games.
"I liked their lineup; I think they were a team that hit for a pretty high average and got a lot of hits but didn't score a lot of runs," said Mattingly, who was manager of the Dodgers last season and watched the Marlins from afar. "That tells you a lot. Sometimes it tells you that you're not doing the little things as far as moving runners, getting guys in from third -- doing the little things that it takes to win games."
The Tigers start with a recast front office, Al Avila having replaced Dave Dombrowski as vice president of baseball operations and general manager. Dombrowski went on to the Red Sox, and Avila spearheaded an offseason rebuild.
The Tigers have a new look on the field thanks to Avila's ability to sign a trio of high-profile free agents. The club should be improved at the back end of the bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez and his 386 career saves as the closer. Detroit also added Justin Upton in left field and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the starting rotation.
Collectively, those three players cost the Tigers $259.75 million. The goal is to get Detroit back to the postseason. Until last year, the Tigers had won four consecutive American League Central titles, losing twice in the AL Championship Series and once in the World Series, where they were swept by the Giants in 2012.
Last year, the Tigers fell to last place, 20 1/2 games behind the eventual World Series-winning Royals.
In Motown, a season with 87 losses is just not acceptable. Now, manager Brad Ausmus has new pieces to generate a return to prominence.
"I'm confident in the team," Ausmus said. "The health issue is always a concern. I think the health issue, especially on the pitching side, is the one thing that always concerns me. I'm probably more aware of it this year because of what happened last year."
The Marlins haven't reached the postseason since the surprising Jack McKeon-led squad beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. In fact, the Marlins have made the postseason just twice since their inception in 1993, both times claiming a Wild Card spot en route to a World Series title.
Mattingly, the eighth Marlins manager since McKeon retired, will try to mold one of the most promising young outfields in the game into a productive unit: Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. The standout of the group, Stanton missed 88 games last year because of a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
Tutoring Mattingly's hitters will be Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 home runs.
"We have an offense that can play," said Bonds. "They're all still young; they're still developing. We have a good combination of things. We have speed, we have power.
"We have three guys on this team who can hit 25 or more home runs. That's a great combination to have on one team -- three guys who can really tattoo a baseball."
Tigers' projected Opening Day lineup
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Justin Upton, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
J.D. Martinez, RF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
James McCann, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Anthony Gose, CF
Justin Verlander, RHP
Marlins' projected Opening Day lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B
Marcell Ozuna, CF
Christian Yelich, LF
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Martin Prado, 3B
Justin Bour, 1B
J.T. Realmuto, C
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Wei-Yin Chen, LHP

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