Tigers return for chilly home opener against Yankees
DETROIT (AP) In Detroit, Kirk Gibson is remembered for much more than his famous home run off Dennis Eckersley.
Four years before that 1988 homer that propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to a World Series title, Gibson homered three times in the postseason for the Tigers. The championship Detroit won in 1984 is still the team's most recent World Series title, and those memories linger in Motown as the Tigers prepare for this season's home opener against the New York Yankees on Friday. Gibson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Gibson, who announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, does some broadcasting now for Fox Sports Detroit. He was at spring training with the Tigers this year as a guest instructor.
''Gibby is one of the greatest Tigers of all time,'' Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. ''He's got probably one of the top 10 best video highlights ever recorded in major league baseball history. He's a great guy and he's been a big help to me this spring.''
Detroit returns home after opening the season with two wins at Miami. The Tigers are eager to put their last-place finish of 2015 behind them and return to the form that won them the AL Central the previous four years, but they have plenty of questions this season. On the mound for Detroit on Friday will be Jordan Zimmermann, making his first start for the Tigers after signing a $110 million, five-year deal this past offseason.
Detroit's offense has been impressive so far, with Victor Martinez homering twice in two at-bats and the Tigers scoring 15 runs in two games against the Marlins. There were some anxious moments, however, such as when newly acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning of the opener - a game Detroit eventually won in 11.
The Yankees opened at home against Houston, but manager Joe Girardi said they sent right-hander Luis Severino ahead early to Detroit. He'll make Friday's start.
Severino went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts last season, when he made his big league debut.
''I think for a lot of us, when you're the visiting team on opening day, all the pageantry can kind of throw off your routine,'' Yankees reliever Andrew Miller said. ''But it's a nice accomplishment for guys who made the roster for the first time, those Tigers who will line up for the first time and be introduced.''
For New York fans, the game Saturday might be more anticipated. CC Sabathia is expected to start. He pitched effectively with a new knee brace late last season, then missed the team's brief postseason stay while undergoing alcohol rehabilitation. Sabathia was ineffective for much of spring training and is owed $25 million this year plus $25 million more in 2017 unless he has a significant left shoulder injury this year.
Sabathia will be tested in his first start, because he's a lefty pitching against Detroit's predominantly righty-hitting lineup. The Tigers scored five runs in five innings against Miami left-hander Wei-Yin Chen in the season opener.
Perhaps the cold air in Michigan will help keep both offenses under control. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 30s around game time Friday, and the rest of the weekend might be even colder.
''It'll be cold. But whatever the weather, those fans show up,'' said Miller, who pitched for the Tigers from 2006-07. ''It's a historical place for baseball, a good stadium.''
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