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4 DETROIT Tigers
Mark Bechtel
March 25, 2002
There may be less bickering in Detroit, but not more bang from a popgun offense
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March 25, 2002

4 Detroit Tigers

There may be less bickering in Detroit, but not more bang from a popgun offense

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THE LINEUP

projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER

B-T

PVR

BA

HR

RBI

SB

BATTING ORDER

CF Jose Macias

S-R

212

.268

8

51

21

RF Robert Fick

L-R

147

.272

19

61

0

LF Bobby Higginson

L-R

88

.277

17

71

20

1B Dmitri Young#

S-R

83

.302

21

69

8

3B Dean Palmer

R

94

.222

II

40

4

C Mitch Meluskey*

S-R

235

.300

14

69

1

DH Craig Paquette#

R

187

.282

15

64

3

2B Damion Easley

R

206

.250

II

65

10

SS Shane Halter

R

247

.284

12

65

3

BENCH

C Mike Rivera (R)?

R

238

.289

33

101

2

OF Wendell Magee

R

316

.213

5

17

3

PITCHER

PVR

W

L

IPS

WHIP

ERA

STARTERS

RH Jeff Weaver

76

13

16

6.9

1.32

4.08

RH Steve Sparks

51

14

9

7.0

1.33

3.65

RH Jose Lima?

108

6

12

5.8

1.42

5.54

LH Mark Redman

225

2

6

5.3

1.57

4.50

RH Nate Cornejo (R)

136

4

4

4.3

2.13

7.38

PITCHER

PVR

W

L

S

WHIP

ERA

BULLPEN

RH Matt Anderson

32

3

1

22

1.32

4.82

RH Danny Patterson

126

5

4

1

1.18

3.06

RH Bill Simas*#

293

2

3

0

1.34

3.46

#New acquisition

(R)Rookie B-T: Bats-throw IPS Innings pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)

*2000 stats ?Double A stats ?Combined AL and NL stats

You know you're having a bad year when the taking of your team photo is postponed because of a contentious clubhouse meeting and then, after it's finally shot six weeks later, the picture is missing two of your starters because they refused to pose. Such was life last season in Tigertown, where bickering and benchings were the norm. By the time September rolled around, general manager Randy Smith, and skipper Phil Garner knew that an overhaul was in order. Garner stripped rightfielder Juan Encarnacion—one of the photo boycotters—and shortstop Deivi Cruz of their starting roles for the final month, and after the season both were let go. (Encarnacion was traded to the Reds; free agent Cruz signed with the Padres.) Also gone in the off-season were the other picture no-show, centerfielder Roger Cede�o, and longtime first baseman Tony Clark. ( Cede�o signed with the Mets; Clark was waived after Smith was unable to trade him, and he later signed with the Red Sox.)

While addition by subtraction is often a good thing, it's always nice to have a little addition by addition. But the most significant new face that Smith brought in was first baseman Dmitri Young, who came to Detroit in the Encarnacion deal. Two months after the trade Young ripped former teammate Ken Griffey Jr., saying that the star had a selfish attitude. Welcome to Detroit, Dmitri. You'll fit right in.

The Tigers are obviously a team in need of a steadying influence in the clubhouse, and Garner hopes that the right guy for the job is Dean Palmer. The 33-year-old third baseman missed most of last season after rotator-cuff surgery on his right shoulder, and it was after he left the lineup that things really started going downhill. "It was real frustrating to see the problems we had and to know there was nothing I could do about them," Palmer says. "I definitely think I could have helped out in the clubhouse."

As much as it needs Palmer's veteran cool, Detroit also needs his bat. Clark, who missed his usual run of games with a variety of injuries last season, led the Tigers with a meager 75 RBIs. Palmer has averaged 32 homers in the seven injury-free seasons he has played and is the one Detroit player who can muscle the ball out of spacious Comerica Park. With Young, a line drive hitter who might hit 45 doubles playing half his games in Comerica, and Palmer hitting behind him, leftfielder Bobby Higginson should improve on his mediocre 2001 season. With little protection Higginson didn't see many good pitches and set a career high in walks, with 80. "If you're cautious to Higgy and walk him," Garner says, "then here's Dmitri, a .300 hitter. If you don't want to pitch to Dmitri, now you've got Deano, and he'll bust a few balls out."

Busting balls shouldn't be a problem for Palmer. He felt fine swinging a bat when he arrived in camp and hit two homers in his third exhibition game. His concern was throwing, but by mid-March he was on schedule to at least play semiregularly at third by early April. Palmer will move to DH for some games to rest his arm, as will catcher Mitch Meluskey, who missed all of last year after shoulder surgery. Garner will juggle his lineup as needed to generate offense, as evidenced by his handing the rightfield job to Robert Fick, a slugging former catcher who played the position only eight adventure-filled times last year. (Garner's philosophy: "If you let in one, drive in two.")

By shoehorning Fick into the lineup, Garner has put together a starting nine that has more pop than last year's, though that power won't be all that evident in Comerica. And it won't matter how explosive the Tigers are on the field if they remain combustible off it.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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