Jamie Edmonds: 5 reasons my trip to Detroit Tigers spring training made me more excited for season

Tigers Opening Day set for April 8

Jamie Edmonds at Spring Training. (WDIV)

We are 12 days away from the Tigers Opening Day at Comerica Park. Here’s why my trip to spring training this year makes me even more excited about Tigers baseball.

AJ Hinch

Hinch showed how valuable of a manager he is last year. With he roster he had, the Tigers won 77 games. Add in the new talent acquired this offseason, I expect the Tigers to win even more. He is a really good manager. He also seems to be a manager his players like to be around.

While I was in Lakeland, there were many jokes and you could tell all the players, including the young guys, feel comfortable around him. He has created a culture in the clubhouse where special moments are celebrated (Spencer Turnbull giving Eric Haase a Rolex for catching his no-hitter) and where you can roast a Cy Young award winner (Roger Clemens spoke at the Tigers’ morning meeting and they showed a video of 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera homering off Clemens in the 2003 World Series) A fun clubhouse leads to a loose team on the field.

Will it translate to winning the division as everyone told me is the goal this year? We’ll see. Also, I don’t know if it was Hinch’s decision on the music for batting practice, but it was late 90s and early 2000s stuff and I really identified with that.

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera came to spring training in the best shape of his life. Just kidding. I can’t confirm that. But he did seem to be in a great mood and embracing Hinch and the direction of the team. Hinch said of Miggy last year: ‘he bought- in from the beginning.’

This year, it seems Miggy is continuing that trend. He was quoted as saying he’s happy to give up the first base spot if it means 2020 number one overall pick Spencer Torkelson makes the team.

Every player told me Miggy runs the locker room. I mean, there’s a quote on the Clubhouse wall: ‘Less talk, more work” attributed to Cabrera. Akil Baddoo told me whenever he needs advice, he can go right to Miguel’s locker. In the second-to-the-last year of his contract, it looks like the veteran Cabrera is teaching, leading and embracing this team-first attitude.

Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene

It sure seems to me like these two are ready to make the Big League roster. Both told me last week that they feel ready, but ultimately the decision to play on Opening Day isn’t theirs. Well… they’re doing everything they can to force the Tigers hand.

Green was hitting .333 in seven games of spring training. Tork is hitting .313 in seven games.

When I talked to both guys, it didn’t seem like this moment was too big or they felt too much pressure. Credit to Hinch and the clubhouse culture.

Jamie Edmonds at Spring Training. (WDIV)

Tigers brand new rotation

The Tigers rotation looks like this: Eduardo Rodriguez, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Michael Pineda. I like the bookends as the veterans come in.

Rodriguez signed a 5-year deal with the Tigers. Last season he was 13-8 with a 4.74 era. No where near what he is capable of. He missed all of 2020 due to covid-related illness. But if you look at his 2019, he was 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young voting.

Pineda comes to the Tigers from the Twins on a one-year deal. He was 9-8 with a 3.62 ERA last season. He had a strong September when he went 5-0. Skubal told me in Lakeland he was already looking to Rodriguez for tips and advice. That was before the Tigers signed Pineda. With two veterans anchoring the rotation, the young guys have an opportunity to grow and improve.

The Tigers spent some money

The Tigers were buyers once again. They went out and got a catcher in Tucker Barnhart, a shortstop in Javier Baez, Two starting pitchers (See #4) and added a reliever in Andrew Chafin.

Did they get Carlos Correa? No. He’s going to the Twins. That one hurts.

Did they get Zack Greinke? No. He returned to the Royals. Al Avila told me the Tigers were in the mix for Greinke. He said money was no object, but Greinke chose KC for personal reasons.

In all, the Tigers have spent more than $200 million this offseason. That’s a good thing. Could they spend more? Absolutely. Let’s see how this lineup works to start the season. Avila told me if the Tigers are in contention near the trade deadline, they could be buyers once again.

Honorable mention to make the list: Andrew Chafin, the reliever added the bullpen. He seems like a really fun dude. He’s a farmer from Ohio who buys and sells cattle and loves the outdoors. I believe he will be a great addition to the bullpen and an even better addition to the post-game clubhouse interview.

Who’s ready for April 8th? See you at Comerica Park!

About the Author:

Jamie anchors sports coverage on Local 4 News Saturdays at 6 & 11 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., in addition to hosting Sports Final Edition.