Just over a week into March, the Detroit Tigers are already depending on role players to overachieve in order to succeed in 2016
The Tigers are 4-4 as the second week of competitive baseball rolls on, and although none of the games thus far will count towards their 162 regular season total, its looking like the .500 mark is right about where they will end up.
USA Today suggested the same, when they projected the Tigers finishing 80-82 and in 4th place in the AL Central for this year. Many fans were outraged, sighting another big spending offseason to add to an already seasoned, yet accomplished roster that is desperate to win it all.
But after very limited Spring Training action, the Detroit Tigers are already digging deeper into their lineup than expected. The unsettling future of Anibal Sanchez makes the Mike Pelfrey signing more important than previously thought. After yesterday’s outing against the Mets, Pelfrey has plenty of work to do in order to hold down the middle of the rotation. And although Sanchez is on pace to return soon, his injury history cannot go overlooked. He has managed at least one DL stint in every year with Detroit except for 2013, and is coming off his worst season ever in 2015.
So with almost a $200 million payroll, somehow Shane Greene‘s start on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in Spring Training will play a pivotal role in how the Detroit Tigers season goes. General Manager Al Avila wasted zero time putting pressure on Greene, who by the end of last season had so little confidence in himself that he could barely throw a strike in AAA ball. If he gets shelled this afternoon, will he be able to mentally recover going into the season? Lets hope so, because he’s first in line if any of the starters make a trip to the DL or underperforms.
2015 Team MVP Alex Wilson‘s shoulder injury doesn’t seem to be getting any better, either. The Tigers top relief man from last season may have been overworked by Manager Brad Ausmus, and now the team is lacking a reliever with a proven track record to eat up innings. Of course, Wilson was a “Player To Be Named Later” in the Rick Porcello trade, so it’s absolutely possible to find another bulldog out of the pen. It remains to be seen if any the names on the current roster can fill the hole potentially left behind if Wilson is slow to return or ineffective.
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Icing on the cake to the Tigers early Spring Training woes is the Cameron Maybin wrist injury. Maybin was brought in to platoon centerfield with Anthony Gose, which has been a revolving door since the departure of Austin Jackson in 2014. Gose showed last year that he is completely incapable of playing centerfield every day, and the addition of Maybin was intended to give the outfield a much-needed spark. Unfortunately, losing Maybin not only interrupts crucial training going into the regular season, but it puts Gose back in the everyday picture. The names still available in free agency are laughable, and their top outfield prospect is nowhere near ready for the big leagues, so they’re stuck with Gose and Tyler Collins. Yikes.
Dealing with injuries is part of the game, but having to deal with them this early is frustrating. Fortunately, players have plenty of time to get prepared for the season, and some of them may be preparing for expanded duty.