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Thursday March 20, 2008 11:45 am

Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

Description
One thing is for sure with the 2008 Detroit Tigers, they’ll hit. The 2007 Tigers finished in 2nd place in the AL Central division, with an 88-74 record. If their starting rotation can hold up, you can bet Detroit will give the Cleveland Indians a run for their money this season.

Starting Rotation:  The Tigers’ starting rotation should be average in 2008. Justin Verlander (18 wins and 183 strikeouts in 2007) is a legitimate ace and could win 20 games. If Kenny Rogers stays healthy this season, he could return to old form and throw over 200 innings. Though Dontrelle Willis had an off year last season (5.17 ERA), he still has the stuff that made him the ace of the Marlins from 2003-2007. Jeremy Bonderman is still just 25 years old, but needs a season with an ERA of under 5 for this team to succeed. Nate Robertson should be a very good number 5 pitcher.

Bullpen: The closer will be Todd Jones. He’s passable for a closer, but another season with a 4.26 ERA or under isn’t realistic. The rest of the bullpen is pretty empty. Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney will be on the DL at the start of the season. Jason Grilli and Bobby Seay are decent bullpen cogs, but I don’t know if their good enough to be set-up men. Tim Byrdak is the only other southpaw in the bullpen, the 34 year old had a 3.20 ERA in 45 innings.

Starting Lineup: The lineup is stacked. Jacques Jones, Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez will be in the outfield. Granderson hit 23 home runs last season and swiped 26 bags, while Ordonez hit 139 RBI’s with a .363 average last year. Carlos Guillen will be the new first baseman, he knoced in 121 RBI’s last year, while the 2nd baseman Placido Polanco hit .341 with a .388 OBP last year.  New shortstop Edgar Renteria hit .332 last season. Former Marlin Miguel Cabrera will be the new third baseman, he hit 34 home runs with 119 RBI’s last season. The DH will be Gary Sheffield, always a dangerous hitter, he hit 25 bombs last season. Here’s an idea of how good this Tigers lineup is; catcher Ivan Rodriguez hit .281 with 11 home runs and 63 RBI’s last season, and he’ll be hitting 9th in the lineup.

Bench: Third baseman/catcher Brandon Inge could very well be traded before the year begins. He’s said he wouldn’t be happy with a bench role, and the bench is where he’d be with the 08 Tigers. Marcus Thames could hit his way into a platoon with Jacques Jones in left field. Prospect Ryan Raburn should be the 5th outfielder this season. Middle infielder Ramon Santiago should fill in the infield. If healthy, Vance Wilson will backup Ivan Rodriguez.

Overall: If the pitching rotation is anything close to formidable, the Tigers will have no trouble winning the AL Central division this season. Look out for the Tigers in the American League.

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