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Opening Day brings thrills

March 29, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette

By the time you reach my age, there aren't a whole lot of thrills left.

But the opening day of baseball remains one of the few things I really look forward to.

There's something about baseball's opening day that sets it apart from other openers. There's the anticipation of seeing some hardball after a long and cold winter, and it officially signals the start of warmer weather.

But Opening Day is also a time of rebirth. It's a time when your favorite team, however bad they were the season before, starts out with a clean state. For one day, at least, they're a contender.

The Detroit Tigers continue to be my team of choice - and I suspect are the major league favorite of the vast majority of area fans.

The first Opening Day I can recall with any clarity came in 1955. The Tigers of that year would not accomplish anything special ... they were a second division club that quickly settled into a mediocre pattern.

Yet, I can probably give you the starting lineup the Tigers trotted out that day without straining too many brain cells.

A young Al Kaline was just coming off leading the American League in hitting the year before, and he quickly became my favorite player.

But the names of Ray Boone, Bill Tuttle, Earl Torgeson and Harvey Kuenn rolled off the tongue with ease.

The pitching staff was a very weak spot in 1956, but young hurlers like Frank Lary, Billy Hoeft, Jim Bunning and Paul Foytack gave promise of better days ahead.

Now, it's a more than a half century later. This year's edition of the Tigers appears capable of winning the American League Central Division.

Yes, I know the pesky Minnesota Twins are still dangerous. And those despised Chicago White Sox have a fine pitching staff and powerful Adam Dunn in the lineup.

But the Tigers made some solid moves in the off-season, most notably getting free agents Victor Martinez and Brad Penny.

Martinez will nicely abet Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup and add some stability at catching. Let's hope that Cabrera can avoid his personal demons and stick to baseball.

It's on the mound where I believe the Tigers will be the strongest. Staff ace Justin Verlander should win more than 20 games and become the dominant hurler he has shown signs of being the last few seasons.

Combined with Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Penny, the Tigers could have the top four starters in the league.

But there are some potential trouble areas for the Motowners. Young Will Rhymes is being counted on to hold down second base, while shortstop Jhonny Peralta must prove he can play a whole season.

Left field has been given to Ryan Raburn, who really only hit in August and September last season. Raburn is also a defensive liability.

And Detroit fans have to hope that manager Jim Leyland won't have brain drains similar to those he has displayed the past couple of seasons. Remember the infamous Alfredo Figaro start in the final weekend of the season two years ago?

An added bonus is opening the season against the hated New York Yankees on Thursday, a team anyone will have to deal with down the road.

 
 

 

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