Detroit Tigers look forward to an even better finish in 2013

Detroit Tigers players loosening up in spring trainging
The Detroit Tigers are loose and raring to go in 2013. (Charlie Neibergall)

Entering spring training, many speculated whether the Detroit Tigers would have a different demeanor entering camp. It certainly would be understandable. Next Thursday will be four months to the day when the San Francisco Giants spanked the Tigers in a devastating sweep of the World Series.

Manager Jim Leyland and the rest of the organization has apologized countless times to the state and the city of Detroit. After sweeping the Yanks and then being swept themselves, the club was left dumbfounded.

No more apologies. No more looking back on the past. The Tigers made it clear they’re looking ahead to 2013, and they know just how good they are.

“I’d pick us still,” said newly acquired outfielder Torii Hunter. “I’ve come to the best team. I don’t play for the Angels. I don’t play for the Twins. I play for the Tigers, and I come to win.”

That’s one of many refreshing quotes that gives Detroit Tigers fans hope. And this sort of truth is hard to doubt. Ask any pitcher, no one wants to face Detroit’s version of Murderer’s Row. Ask any hitter, no one is thrilled about facing Justin Verlander or staring down Max Scherzer when they’re behind in the count. The competition is well aware of what this roster can do.

The Detroit Tigers understand who they are. This is a team that’s anxious to get back to the postseason. This is a team that also understands it’s better than the 88-74 record it ended with last year. No matter how you look at it, the Tigers are still a threat.

“I love being a target, “Leyland said to reporters before spring training. “That means you have a good team.”

Detroit was 38-43 on the road last season. This will be something they have to improve on. Lucky for them, with the exception of the Chicago White Sox, the division wasn’t competitive. Detroit also went 21-27 in one-run games in 2012, making them the worst team in the AL Central in close ballgames.

It shouldn’t be too hard overcome that, considering they’ve kept the majority of their nucleus intact, only letting go of, most notably, Delmon Young, Jose Valverde and Ryan Raburn. The rotation also has stayed the same.

“It’s the strength of our club,” Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said. “Our starting rotation is a real positive part of our team.”

Verlander, Scherzer, Doug Fister and the newly re-signed Anibal Sanchez are the same four pitchers who led them to the series, and they will continue to carry this club in 2013 and beyond. It’s the best situation for any team, having the same winning rotation. All are healthy and continuing to work with pitching coach Jeff Jones to tweak any intricate piece to their game to make them that much better.

With Victor Martinez’s anticipated return, after suffering a torn ACL last spring training and missing the entire 2012 season, Detroit now has more wiggle room to shake things up. At 34 years old, and with the sort of injury he sustained, Martinez may never catch again. He’s listed as a third catcher on the Tigers’ depth chart.

Interleague play has changed significantly, so it will be interesting to see how Leyland will shift Martinez in NL ballparks. It’s almost certain he’ll platoon him as he does Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry.

Detroit’s spring training vibe is a happy, yet determined atmosphere. Make no mistake, the roar is still alive in Motown.

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