The Detroit Tigers open the season on Monday in frosty Minnesota, where forecasts call for temperature in the low 30s at game time at outdoor Target Field. The wind chill is expected to be around 20 degrees. So the Tigers will need all the heat they can get from Justin Verlander 's 100 mph fastballs."It's going to be cold but I've pitched in that kind of weather before," Verlander said. "I don't think about it. It's always cold in Detroit on opening day."
But this cold? If the forecast holds true, it has the potential to be the coldest opening day on record in Minnesota, dating to 1961. The coldest was 33 degrees in 1963. There was plenty of debate when the Twins were designing a new stadium about building one with a roof to shield them from the elements. The first three seasons in Target Field have been mostly beautiful, with few rainouts and generally warm weather once the season began.
Major League Baseball put the Twins on the road to start each of the first three seasons at Target Field, a seven-game trip in 2010, a six-game trip in 2011 and a three-gamer last year. Maybe after seeing all the warm weather the last few years, MLB's schedule makers decide to tempt fate because this is the first time the Twins will open the season at home."No one likes playing in the cold," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "But at the same time, we're going to be playing opening day in a Major League Baseball game. Isn't that enough?"
Verlander will get the ball for the Tigers against Vance Worley , who came to the Twins in a trade with Philadelphia this offseason. Verlander certainly will have the money to buy himself a nice warm coat for the trip. He agreed to a $180 million, seven-year deal with the Tigers on Friday, the richest given to a pitcher."I think it is a great situation for him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's good for him, it's good for the organization, and it's good for the fans."
As crazy as it sounds, the guy who is widely considered the best pitcher in the American League might be entering this season with redemption on his mind. After winning the 2011 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award following a stellar regular season that has become almost typical, Verlander gave up five runs in four innings of his only start in the World Series, a Game 1 loss to the San Francisco Giants . The flat performance from their ace seemed to stun the Tigers, who fell to the Giants in a sweep.
Detroit added veteran outfielder, and former Twins fan favorite, Torii Hunter in the offseason to add even more punch to an offense that already is loaded with Prince Fielder , Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez , who returns after spending last season on the disabled list. The expectations are there once again for another deep run."We are going to hit, don't get me wrong," Leyland said. "This team is going to hit. When you have speed at the top of the lineup then guys like Hunter, Cabrera, Prince, Martinez, these guys are going to score runs. I like our pitching and I am satisfied with everything we have going for us."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wishes he could say the same. The Twins have lost more than 90 games in each of the past two seasons, with fans growing impatient about a perceived lack of investment from ownership while they play in their revenue-generating new ballpark. They have been searching for an ace for years, and there doesn't appear to be one ready to help them anytime soon.
Worley is getting the start almost by default. He was 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in six spring training appearances, but Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno aren't healthy enough to start the season with the big club and the rest of the rotation was underwhelming this spring as well."We hope to get back to where we were a couple of years ago, winning the division," All Star catcher Joe Mauer said. "We're looking forward to it."
AP freelance writers David Dorsey in Fort Myers, Fla., and Jeff Berlinicke in Lakeland, Fla., contributed to this report.
|March 22, 2013||Avisail Garcia||15-Day DL||Bruised right heel|
|March 24, 2013||Tim Wood||15-Day DL||Right rotator cuff strain|
|March 22, 2013||Scott Diamond||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Fractured ribs|
|February 06, 2013||Anthony Swarzak||Day-to-Day||Fractured ribs|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers are restocked for a run at another World Series.
Some cold air at the start of the season wasn't about to deter them.
Verlander won on opening day for the first time in six tries, striking out seven over five shutout innings at frosty Target Field, sending the defending American League champions past the Minnesota Twins 4-2 on Monday.
"When I was warming up in the sun, I was like, `I could have come out in short sleeves. This isn't that bad.' As soon as the shade set in, it was a totally different ball game. It was miserable," said Verlander, who gave up three hits and two walks.
With the game-time temperature at 35 degrees and the wind blowing at 17 mph, fans had to bundle up. But opening day is always a draw, as evidenced by the announced crowd of 38,282, officially a sellout by Twins guidelines.
"We got one under our belt, and what I'm happiest about the temperature is going to be in the 50s on Wednesday so that will be a little bit better for both teams," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
With Verlander's $180 million, seven-year contract that could keep the right-hander with the Tigers through 2020 only a few days old, Leyland took the safe route by removing him after those five dominant innings.
Doubles by Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were the only signs of resistance by the Twins, who haven't beaten Verlander (1-0) since April 27, 2010. The former AL MVP and Cy Young winner, who threw 91 pitches, is 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA in nine starts during that span.
"I argued a little bit and tried to get back in there, but I understand," said Verlander, who had four no-decisions and one defeat in five previous openers.
Leyland described the move as a "no-brainer" to remove his ace so soon.
"I'm not going to do anything silly. There's no question in my mind that was the best move to make for the Tiger organization," Leyland said, adding: "He's a little more secure than I am, but I'm going to make the decisions."
First baseman Prince Fielder , wearing a black ski mask on his head, had two hits and an RBI to help spoil Vance Worley 's first start for the Twins, who left 12 runners on, including the bases loaded in the seventh.
Phil Coke got the last two outs for the first save by the Tigers' closer committee that's succeeding Jose Valverde , who became a free agent and is still unsigned. Drew Smyly gave up a run on a wild pitch in the sixth inning and another on an RBI single by Ryan Doumit in the seventh, but Al Alburquerque struck out Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee to finish that inning and strand three men.
"We did just what we told everybody we were going to be doing: We mixed and matched," Leyland said.
The Twins struck out 12 times. They also left two runners in scoring position in the sixth when Fielder made a slick scoop of shortstop Jhonny Peralta 's one-hop throw from the hole to barely beat Wilkin Ramirez on an inning-ending grounder.
"We had our chances. Just couldn't get `em in," Mauer said.
In conditions that favored the men on the mound over the players at the plate, Verlander struck out rookie Aaron Hicks in each of the center fielder's first three at-bats. Skipping Triple-A to face a pitcher like Verlander is a tough transition, even for the 14th overall pick from the 2008 draft. Hicks took a walk in his last at-bat.
"We did some good things out there. It was a fun ballgame. Unfortunately we didn't come up with one more big hit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Worley (0-1) worked sleeveless for his Twins debut and first AL appearance, completing six innings with eight hits, three runs and one walk. He struck out three. The right-hander, acquired in the trade that sent speedy outfielder Ben Revere to Philadelphia, needed 24 pitches to finish the first inning. Fielder followed an RBI grounder by Miguel Cabrera with a double down the left-field line that stretched the lead to two.
The big-swinging, power-hitting Tigers looked more like a small-ball team on this day. Whatever works, when the weather makes it hard to get a hit, let alone hit a homer.
Torii Hunter , in the unfamiliar No. 2 spot in the batting order, marked his Tigers debut with a hit-and-run opposite-field single that keyed a two-run first. Jhonny Peralta stole second base to put himself in position to score on Omar Infante 's single in the second.
After Fielder led off the eighth inning with a single, Andy Dirks laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Fielder scored later on a wild pitch by Josh Roenicke to make it 4-2.
"I couldn't feel my hands," Hunter said. "I was closing my eyes and swinging."
NOTES: The Tigers have won 16 of their last 20 games at Target Field since Sept. 2, 2010, outscoring the Twins 117-81 in that stretch. ... After taking Tuesday off, the teams resume the series Wednesday with RHP Kevin Correia making his debut for the Twins opposite Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez .
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