The Tigs, They Are a-Changin'.

January 24, 2015

By Pat Batcheller

Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez meet the media at Comerica Park.

"I think we’ll probably defend better. I think we’ll probably have a bit more speed overall."

Brad Ausmus, Tigers manager.

Tiger fans can meet their favorite players at Comerica Park Saturday. The annual TigerFest begins around 11 AM inside the stadium. As WDET’s Pat Batcheller reports,fans will see some new faces wearing the Olde English “D” in 2015.

One of those new faces belongs to pitcher Shane Greene…who made his Major League debut with the New York Yankees last season. The Tigers got a good look at the 26-year-old right-hander in August when he pitched eight scoreless innings against them in a game at Yankee Stadium. Greene says he was surprised when the Tigers acquired him in a three-team trade in December. But he adds he’s excited to be in Detroit.

“You know, this is a big sports town, and I know playing here with New York, the atmosphere in the stadium is awesome, so I’m gonna enjoy playing here a lot, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Greene is expected to step right into the Tigers’ starting rotation, along with another newcome, Alfredo Simon. Six days after acquiring Greene, Detroit traded promising shortstop Eugenio Suarez to Cincinnati, where Simon was an All-Star last season. Simon and Greene join a staff that lost 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who just signed a record free agent contract with Washington. The Tigers still have two other Cy Young winners in their rotation--David Price and Justin Verlander. Price signed a one-year-deal worth almost 20-million dollars last week, and Verlander says he’s ready to bounce back from one of the worst seasons of his career.

“I feel better than I have in three or four years. I have no issues starting to warm up. The ball’s coming out of my hand as good as I’ve seen it in a while. I mean I’m excited to start throwing off the mound. I’m excited to get to Spring Training and see how it feels against hitters.”

Verlander says it’s too early to know if he can regain his near 100-mile-an-hour velocity. But the better he is, the better the rotation is. And the better the rotation is, the less wear and tear on a bullpen that was among the worst in baseball in 2014. Closer Joe Nathan blew a career-high seven saves last season. He almost lost his job last year to Joakim Soria, who was acquired from Texas last summer. One of baseball’s most dependable relievers before the trade, Soria was inconsistent and injury-prone soon afterward. If Soria returns to form this season, Nathan says Tiger fans needn’t worry about the bullpen.

“We have Bruce Rondon coming back. You’ve got a guy that throws a hundred miles an hour. Joel Hanrahan sitting there. He’s waiting to be a part of this pen. We have Soria for a full season. Then you’ve got me and Alburquerque, and then you’re gonna have a new left-hander in the pen coming over from Milwaukee.”

While the bullpen doesn’t look much different this season, fans will notice a change in the middle of the batting order. Say goodbye to free agent Torii Hunter and hello to Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers traded starting pitcher Rick Porcello to Boston for Cespedes, who brings strong hitting and stronger defense to the outfield. The infield will get a boost with the return of slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias, who didn’t play at all last season due to injuries. Manager Brad Ausmus says the changes should make the Tigers better in 2015.

“I think we’ll probably defend better. I think we’ll probably have a bit more speed overall. It wouldn’t shock me if our offense was a little better.”

Detroit’s offense will be better if Miguel Cabrera is healthy. Last season, injuries depleted him of the power that makes him the most-feared hitter in baseball. He had foot surgery in the off-season…and the Tigers hope he’ll be ready to play by Opening Day on April 6th. Spring training begins in less than three weeks.