The Tigers will have to wait for 2015 for Bruce Rondon and his 100-mph fastball. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Tigers fans are breathing at least a little easier now, after the team’s 2-0 start.
But there remains concerns over the team’s lack of depth, following critical spring injuries to shortstop Jose Iglesias (shins), outfielder Andy Dirks (back) and reliever Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery).
That said, allow me to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: Other teams are banged up, too, and some far worse than the Tigers. It’s been a harsh month-and-a-half on the health front for Major League Baseball, and several contenders are feeling the fallout.
The Braves have lost a bevy of pitchers this spring, including Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgery. Same goes for the A’s, whose Jarrod Parker also has had Tommy John surgery. The Rangers are planning for a half-season without second baseman Jurickson Profar (shoulder), among a bevy of other issues. And the Reds don’t yet know when closer Aroldis Chapman will be fully recovered from a scary comebacker to the face – the latest in an awful string of injuries for them.
Then there are the Dodgers, who already have had to put their ace, Clayton Kershaw, and closer, Brian Wilson, on the disabled list (where All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp already resided). For Kershaw, it’s a back issue; for Wilson, it’s an elbow problem.
Interestingly, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had a possible explanation for his pitchers’ injuries: a shortened spring. Remember, the Dodgers had to leave camp 10 days early to head to Australia and play the Diamondbacks for two games, before returning home ahead of the States-side Opening Day.
“I don’t think enough thought was put into the process,” Honeycutt told ESPN Los Angeles.
Other contenders, including the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Giants, Indians, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox and Royals, currently have their share of ailments, too – some big and some minor.
More than 100 players were listed on the major-league disabled list as of Thursday afternoon. In fact, on MLB.com’s injury report, just one team has no players listed: the Twins.
Kudos to them, but let’s be honest. They aren’t very good at full strength anyway.
Nice start for Mariners, McClendon
Even with Robinson Cano, the Mariners were supposed to still be a clueless bunch at the plate.
Or so, they said.
Someone forget to tell the Mariners, who just unleashed a stunning fury on the Angels in the opening series, scoring 28 runs through three games. As a team, they’re already batting .309, with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .980.
And it wasn’t all Cano’s doing. He has just a single RBI, while four teammates have at least four – with Justin Smoak, he still of the sky-high potential, leading the way with seven.
Nice start for new manager Lloyd McClendon, the Tigers former hitting coach who was passed over for the skipper gig he really wanted, in Detroit.
“Things went well for us,” McClendon told the Seattle Times, in a serious understatement. “One thing I try to tell my guys is, ‘Just unleash your talents.’”
On the flip side, it’s another rotten start for the Angels, whose team ERA is 8.33.
They haven’t won an opening series since 2008.
Super size it
Starting to sense a theme here. When it comes to ballpark food, bigger most definitely is better.
Almost every major-league team is starting to roll out its own innovative treats.
That includes the Tigers, who this year introduced a new hot-dog line at Comerica Park, including the poutine dog. On that, there’s french fries, gravy and cheese curds. It’s a Canadian thing. But, as it turns out, American baseball fans are intrigued. On Opening Day, the poutine dog – which only is sold in one location, the Big Cat Food Court by the carousel – outsold all the other newly-introduced specialty hot dogs, combined. Word has it, there were 226 brave customers.
Sales were even more brisk out in Arizona, where fans flocked to the Diamondbacks’ D-Bat Dog – an 18-inch corn dog filled with cheese, jalapenos and bacon, to go with a side of fries. The darned thing sells for $25, and the Diamondbacks sold 300 on Opening Day.
I can’t tell if I’m disgusted, or starving.
Miggy over Mike again
Mike Trout just can’t beat Miguel Cabrera.
In a list released Wednesday by Major League Baseball, Trout, the Angels all-world outfielder, came in No. 14 on the list of the best-sold jerseys over the offseason.
Just ahead of him, at No. 13? Cabrera, the Tigers mega-star who also happened to edge Trout in the last two Most Valuable Player votes.
The top five jersey sellers were: David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter, Yadier Molina and Kershaw.
Former Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, meanwhile, checked in at No. 16 – though it’s highly likely most of those sales were for his new Rangers jersey.
Sizing up Sizemore
I was asked this week by a reader if the Tigers ever pursued Grady Sizemore, back in baseball after two years off, during the winter. So I went to Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who told me, “Once we signed Rajai Davis, we felt our outfield was set.”
Translation: The Tigers wanted a sure bet for left field, so they signed Davis in December. The Red Sox signed Sizemore in January, well before the Tigers knew they needed some depth there. Dirks went down with back surgery last month.
Sizemore, by the way, had a nice Boston debut, with a home run.
Around the horn
Nice start to the season for Max Scherzer, who went eight innings and allowed no runs in Wednesday’s victory over the Royals. So, how many such starts did he have in 2013, when he won the Cy Young? Zilch. His longest scoreless outing was 7.2 innings, Aug. 3 against the White Sox.
… Jose Valverde, the ex-Tiger, was in the right place at the right time. He’s now the Mets closer, after Bobby Parnell was lost to an elbow tear. And in Valverde’s debut, he struck out three of four batters.
… Kinda bummed Thursday’s Tigers-Royals game was rained out. Kansas City was set to start 100-mph right-hander Yordano Ventura. Detroit’s next chance to see him will be the first weekend of May.
-- Relievers who blew saves in the ninth inning or later Wednesday – Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Glen Perkins, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson and Jose Veras.
11 -- Strikeouts for Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle in Wednesday’s victory, marking just the second time in 430 major-league starts he’s recorded double-digit K’s.
-- Time of Wednesday’s Pirates-Cubs game, in hours and minutes, the longest ever in Pittsburgh.
1965 -- The last time both the Yankees and Mets began a season 0-2, before 2014.
He said it
“That’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice.”
Daniel Murphy, Mets second baseman, talking to ESPN New York about the criticism he’s received for taking paternity leave to be his wife for the birth of his first child, Noah
Three up …
1. Cubs utility player Emilio Bonifacio has come out swinging, with nine hits through two games.
2. Give up for the Astros, who lost 111 games a year ago – but began this season 2-0, vs. the Yankees.
3. Major League Baseball is finally stiffening steroid penalties, and banning cheats from the playoffs.
… and three down
1. New A’s closer Jim Johnson has two losses in two games, with a spiffy 45.00 ERA to go with that.
2. Really hard to believe Tigers ace Justin Verlander’s jersey is not among baseball’s top 20 sellers.
3. Short memory, eh? For his first at-bat this season, Brewers fans gave Ryan Braun a standing ovation.
Got a question?
Wanna know something about the Tigers, or another team? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask him on Twitter at tonypaul1984, and I just might include it in my weekly Tigers Mailbag.