The Minnesota Twins are a team in transition as they open the season by hosting the reigning American League champion Detroit Tigers for a three-game series in frigid conditions, starting Monday.
Veteran stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau begin 2013 healthy and Josh Willingham had a strong first season in Minnesota, but the rest is a work in progress for the Twins as they mix in young players such as center fielder Aaron Hicks.
The Tigers are picked my many experts to return to the World Series with Prince Fielder and 2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera leading the way in the middle of a powerful lineup. Detroit also adds designated hitter Victor Martinez, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and former Twin Torii Hunter.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP, gets the opening day start for the sixth straight year.
TV: 4:10 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports North (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Justin Verlander (2012: 17-8, 2.64 ERA) vs. Twins RH Vance Worley (6-9, 4.20)
Verlander, coming off his sixth straight 200-inning season, signed a $180 million contract extension recently and attempts to record a victory on Opening Day for the first time (0-1). He pitched eight shutout innings in the first game of 2012, but Jose Valverde blew the save before the Tigers won. Verlander was 6-1 in his last 11 starts of the 2012 regular season. He is 12-7 lifetime against Minnesota, with a 3.21 ERA in 154 innings.
Worley was acquired in December from the Philadelphia Phillies in a deal for outfielder Ben Revere and takes a key role in the rotation. He was 18-13 in three seasons with the Phillies, boasting a 3.50 ERA, and has never faced the Tigers. Worley normally uses four pitches and throws in the low 90s. He struggled a bit in the spring, finishing with a 5.73 ERA over 22 innings - striking out 13 and walking only three.
1. With promising fire-balling reliever Bruce Rondon sent to the minors after a shaky spring, the Tigers will close games by committee.
2. Mauer is 20-for-57 (.351) against Verlander with three homers, nine RBIs and a .456 on-base percentage.
3. Tigers LF Quintin Berry, who was 21-of-21 in stolen bases and batted .258 in 94 games last season, was demoted to Triple-A Toledo.