AL Central rivals Tigers and Twins open in Detroit
DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Tigers will start the season Monday with one major change and a lot of question marks.
For the first time since 2007, Justin Verlander won't be Detroit's opening-day starter. Instead, he begins the season on the disabled list for the first time in his career because of a triceps strain.
Even before the injury, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus selected David Price for the opening-day honor. With Max Scherzer in Washington and Verlander coming off a 15-12 season with a 4.54 ERA, Price is now the ace of the staff - something he earned with 7 1-3 shutout innings in a division-clinching effort on the last day of the season against Minnesota.
Price again will be facing the Twins as the Tigers begin their effort for a fifth straight Central Division title. Phil Hughes is set to start for Minnesota in the first game of what Hall of Famer Paul Molitor hopes will be a long managerial career.
''We open up in our division. We'd love to get off to a good start,'' he said.
For the Tigers to get off to a good start they will need Victor Martinzez and Miguel Cabrera to reach full health quickly after having surgery this winter.
Cabrera had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle and fix a stress fracture in his foot. While he'll be in the lineup on Monday, he will need more time off than normal at first base. That's a problem for Ausmus, since Martinez won't be able to play the field anytime soon after tearing his right meniscus this spring.
Martinez will be able to DH, though, and Ausmus is happy with how he looks after an abbreviated training camp.
''When he first started getting back into games, he really didn't look like himself,'' Ausmus said. ''Part of that is just getting your timing. But the last three days he's really started swinging the bat like Victor.''
Verlander's struggles last year were supposed to be due to an offseason injury that curtailed his conditioning program, but after a healthy winter, he struggled with his velocity in the spring before going on the DL.
While the Tigers are trying to keep their aging roster healthy for another run at the World Series title that has eluded owner Mike Ilitch, the Twins are hoping to reap some benefits of a long rebuilding process.
Minnesota has lost at least 92 games in each of the last four seasons, while putting together a farm system that is considered one of the best in baseball.
Most of the top prospects won't start the season with the Twins, though. Molitor chose to go with experience in his first season in the dugout, including 39-year-old Torii Hunter.
The Twins signed 32-year-old Ervin Santana to the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history, hoping to improve a rotation that has struggled for several years. Last week, Santana was suspended 80 games for testing positive for steroids.