DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training Wednesday (Feb. 17) in Lakeland, Florida, marking the unofficial return of baseball season.
Detroit is coming off the heels of a quietly productive offseason, signing a handful of free agents to short-term deals and improving the roster depth, mostly on offense.
Most of the pitching staff looks the same, with free agent signee Jose Urena the main exception. Erasmo Ramirez will also be a new face in Lakeland this week, but he’s not guaranteed a spot on the MLB roster.
All eyes will be on young starters Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning this spring. All three are among the top 25 prospects in baseball, and fans hope to see them in the MLB rotation this season.
Mize and Skubal dipped their feet in the MLB waters during the shortened 2020 campaign, but both struggled to find a groove. It’s unclear if they’ll be on the Opening Day roster, but if the Tigers plan to use a six-man starting rotation, there aren’t many other options.
Spencer Turnbull is the best returning starter on the team after a solid, but inconsistent season. Turnbull struggled to go deep in games, largely due to walks, but showed some promising strikeout potential.
Another interesting player to watch is Matt Boyd, who was the staff ace heading into 2020 but couldn’t find his footing. His strikeout rate dipped well below his elite 2019 level, and the home run woes continued.
If all of Turnbull, Boyd, Mize and Skubal reach something close to their best-case scenarios, the Tigers could have a very strong starting staff. But, the opposite feels just as likely, at this point.
Wilson Ramos enters camp as the presumed No. 1 catcher after signing a one-year deal this offseason. Ramos is a veteran known for his offense, but the Tigers hope he can help lead some of their young pitchers through the season as catching prospect Jake Rogers searches for his offense.
This is the first season at the helm of the Tigers for manager A.J. Hinch and his staff. Detroit was the third-worst team in the league last year and has twice finished with the overall worst record in the last four years.
Hinch hopes to lead the Tigers out of the rebuilding phase, but the current roster will need miraculous improvement for this team to make a playoff push in 2021.
The rest of the team will join the pitchers and catchers Monday (Feb. 22), and the first spring training game is scheduled for Feb. 28.
Detroit hosts Cleveland on April 1 to start the regular season.