I sent off some questions to Rob Rogacki of Bless You Boys, SB Nation's Detroit Tiger's blog and he was nice enough
Who is closer this year? How much confidence do you have in the back of the bullpen? Do you think Jose Valverde will be back in that role at some point this season?
At this point, your guess is as good as mine as who the Tigers' closer truly is. Phil Coke has gotten the ball in the first two save situations of the season, but blew one in spectacular fashion against the Minnesota Twins. His outing on Sunday against the New York Yankees did him no favors with the skipper either. Joaquin Benoit seems to be the flavor of the week among the local media, but Jim Leyland has kept mum on his preferences since Coke's blown save in Minnesota. Drew Smyly pitched four scoreless innings in a relief appearance against the Yankees on Friday to earn his first career save. He might be the only guy in the bullpen that fans are actually comfortable with at this point.
A year in, what do you think of Miguel Cabrera's defense at third base? Better than expected?
I think Tigers fans have been pleasantly surprised with Cabrera's defense at the hot corner so far. His range is definitely lacking (and is more apparent when you combine that with shortstop Jhonny Peralta's lack of range), but he makes the plays that he gets to more often than not. Personally, I was surprised at Cabrera's athleticism, particularly when opposing hitters try to bunt their way on base. His defense may become more of a liability as he ages, but the move has been a resounding success so far.
How has Victor Martinez looked, after the missed 2012 season?
His early stats may not reflect it, but Martinez looks like he hasn't missed a beat from his monster 2011 season. His .158 BABIP so far this season is largely luck-driven, as he has hit line drives right at defenders on several occasions. All reports coming out of camp this spring said that Martinez was at 100% from the get-go, and the only game he was scratched from in Spring Training was due to an unrelated back injury. Given that he's a full-time DH now, I don't see his knee being an issue going forward.
Prince Fielder looks huge to me. Is he bigger than last year, or is it my imagination? How long can he continue to play in the field, do you see him moving to DH in the next year or two?
Believe it or not, Prince has reportedly lost a bit of weight since last season. The reason? MMA training. He wanted to work on his footwork and agility, and the results have been promising so far. He is still a below-average first baseman, and I'd be willing to bet that the Tigers start to transition him to a designated hitter role once Victor Martinez's contract is up after the 2014 season, depending on the state of the roster. If the Tigers can find a decent option at third base, we may see Miguel Cabrera transition to first, pushing Prince to the DH role.
How confident are Tiger fans of a return to the playoffs this year?
In a word, very. While other AL Central teams have improved, namely the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians, the Tigers easily have the most talented roster in the division. If they can avoid the slow starts that have plagued them over the past couple seasons, they should win the division going away. I don't think the Royals or Indians have the pitching to compete with Detroit, and the Chicago White Sox need to prove to a lot of doubters that last year was no fluke.
Why the afternoon weekday starts?
The first couple weeks of the season are always littered with afternoon starts at Comerica Park, and we aren't entirely sure why. The weather likely plays a major role, as nights can still get pretty chilly in mid-April. With a winter storm currently moving across the Midwestern U.S. into Wisconsin and Minnesota this evening, we may need all the sunlight we can get.
Anything else us Blue Jay fans should know about the Tigers?
You're playing them at the right time, but not at the right place. The Tigers are a combined 23-26 in March and April over the past two seasons, but have been outscored by 28 runs in those contests. However, they have won at least 50 games at home in each of the past four seasons, including eight of 13 games against your Blue Jays.
Thanks Rob, I'd wish your Tigers luck, but let's save that until after the Jays leave the Motor City.