A Purr-fect preview

Tigers fans gear up for new season
Andrew Touma
Guest Writer

In the midst of a chilled winter, die-hard baseball fans are glued to televisions and radios waiting patiently for baseball season. Sadly, baseball is still a good month away, with most teams opening on April fifth or sixth.
Detroit Tigers fans, such as myself, have much to look forward to. From pace of play rules to players attempting a bounce back season, it is sure to be a great year for baseball.
Here are some projections based on information from baseball-reference.com, espn.go.com, bleacherreport.com.

Managerial and Coaching Staff
As Brad Ausmus enters his sophomore season as manager, he enters with almost the exact same coaching staff. Omar Vizquel and Dave Clark guided Tiger base runners last season with judgment that was above average for a first year coach. Look for them to continue this in the next season. Hitting Coach Wally Joyner led the Tigers to a .277 batting average and 731 RBI’s, both were the highest in baseball for the 2014 season, but with new players and assistant hitting coach David Newhan. However, the pitching staff is in for a biggest change. By trading for all-star Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene, pitching Coach Jeff Jones has more tools in his pitching tool belt.

Infield
As a new season begins, the Tigers shape up with a very similar infield.
Miguel Cabrera, former MVP and Triple Crown winner, sets up at first base after having foot surgery this summer. He will need to step up if designated hitter Victor Martinez misses significant time with his knee injury.
Martinez, last season’s number four hitter and designated hitter for the Kittens, placed second in American League MVP voting. Tigers’ fans hope that both MVP bats return to their caliber pop and contact.
The largest change is the return of shortstop Jose Iglesias, who missed much of last season with stress fractures in each lower leg. He is known for his flashy defense, and will likely suit up at the bottom of the order.
Alongside Iglesias on the left side of the infield is third baseman Nick Castellanos. The former Futures Game MVP showed some pop in his bat, but his glove is less than stellar.
Rounding up the infield is 2014 all-star Ian Kinsler. The second baseman was voted the best defensive player at his position in 2014, and he will almost definitely hit leadoff for the 2015 Detroit Tigers. Bench players include 2B/SS Austin Romine and 2B/3B Hernan Perez.

Outfield
A new season begins with a renovated outfield for the Tigers. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is considered by many to be the best player in this off season’s load. He was acquired this winter in a blockbuster from the Red Sox to presumably play left field. Cespedes showcased his throwing arm last year with 225 putouts and 16 assists.
The fans will also get a chance to see newcomer Anthony Gose. The youngster was property of the Blue Jays last season, but an early offseason acquisition brought him to the Motor City. He has struggled, but hopefully a platoon between him and veteran speedster Rajai Davis will help take the load off in centerfield.
The final starting spot goes to right fielder JD Martinez. This Martinez had a breakout year last year after signing with Detroit in Spring Training. It will be interesting to see whether the switch from left field to right field weakens his average defense, and whether the 2014 season was just a one-time career year. Other outfielders for this season include last season’s September call-ups Steven Moya and Tyler Collins.

Starting Rotation
This will be an interesting season for the Tiger’s starting rotation. They had a 4.01 ERA in 2014, 0.27 higher than the league average. The offseason saw Max Scherzer leave to Washington, and the arrivals of Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene.
With David Price, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez occupying the first three rotation slots, the last two are up for grabs. The first competitor is Shane Greene.
Greene showed promise in his rookie season with the Yankees. He will most likely grab the fourth or fifth slot. Another option is lefty Kyle Lobstein. Lobstein was mainly a fill-in starter for injured pitchers last season for the Tigers, and showed his ability to confuse hitters.
However, Lobstein will probably be a bullpen pitcher as the Tigers bring in former Red Alfredo Simon, or “Big Pasta,” as he is known was an all-star last season. But many are concerned that he went 3-7 post all-star break. Hopefully he can put the bad ending to his all-star season to rest, and show fans what he is really made of.
The final starting pitcher trying for the last rotation spot is lefty Kyle Lobstein. The 25-year-old pitched 39.1 innings last year for the Tigers, and showed fans how good this rotation might be in the future. Whatever the rotation, it will surely challenge hitters this coming season.

Bullpen
The Tigers bullpen did not impress last season. With the inconsistency of Joe Nathan and Bruce Rondon missing the entire season due to Tommy John’s surgery, it was difficult to keep a win until the ninth inning.
Bruce Rondon should be a key for this bullpen. The Venezuelan was known to throw in triple digits pre-surgery. Joakim Soria will take up the eighth inning set-up role. Soria split last season with Texas and Detroit, but failed to live up to expectations with a 4.91 ERA with the Tigers. One of the lonely lefties in the Detroit’s right hand heavy bullpen is Ian Krol. He will mainly be used as a specialist for challenging left-handed hitters. The bullpen rounds out with Al Alburquerque and Luke Putkonen.

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