The Detroit Tigers have their home opener at 2:05 p.m. today
against the Minnesota Twins. With a 3-0 start so far, things seem
to be looking up for the Tigers. Detroit Free Press Sports Writer
and Tigers beat writer John Lowe shared his insights on the new era
of Tigers baseball:

 

The Michigan Daily: What effect will catcher Pudge
Rodriguez have on the pitching staff?

John Lowe: Number one, anybody that has a slow move to
the plate won’t have to worry anymore. (Jason) Johnson and
(Jeremy) Bonderman allowed the most stolen bases of any AL pitchers
last year. Even if they don’t improve their pickoff moves,
there won’t be as many people running on them.

From talking to the Marlins, and learning the impact Rodriguez
had on them last year, I think it’s his attitude and his
leadership and his experience. He’s not reluctant in the
least to take charge of the pitching staff; to cajole, encourage,
scold, reprimand, inspire and whatever he thinks is necessary.

 

TMD: Aside from Pudge, which newcomer will put up the
biggest numbers?

JL: I think shortstop Carlos Guillen is going to have a
nice year. I think this is a good ballpark for him. I think
he’s been an underrated player because he’s been on a
team with a lot of other good players in Seattle. I think his
steadiness is going to be impressive. Does that mean he will have
better home run/RBI? I don’t know. But I would be surprised
if he bats ninth all season. I think he’s got some appeal
higher in the order.

 

TMD: Can outfielder Bobby Higginson regain his old form
or is he just riding out his contract?

JL: I don’t think he’s riding out the
contract. I think he cares too much for that. He did a lot of work
in the offseason to get healthier.

This is a very public business. You just can’t go into
hiding and say, ‘I’m going to earn my money.’ The
players know their fans are watching them, their peers are watching
them, the stats are watching them and the history books are
watching them.

Some things are better for Bobby. He doesn’t have to feel
like he’s the only big guy around anymore. He’s hitting
a little down in the order. I know he’s looking forward to
watching Ivan Rodriguez everyday — he said he’s even
looking forward to watching him in batting practice. Bobby feels
it’s no coincidence that the best year he had was the year he
was teammates with Juan Gonzalez in 2000. He said Gonzalez was the
best hitter he’s ever played with. He said just watching him
take batting practice was an education.

I would not count Bobby out yet.

 

TMD: Is this the year that first baseman Carlos
Peña and third baseman Eric Munson break out?

JL: Peña — that’s probably a better
question than for Munson, because he has more experience than
Munson.

Peña’s got a new batting stance. He did some
impressive things in Spring Training. Munson had a rough spring
defensively. His hitting finally started to come toward the end.
But of course, Spring Training is Spring Training. As I was saying
with Higginson, it’s got to help those two guys that they
have a lot of veteran examples to watch now and that they
don’t have to feel like they are carrying as much as last
year.

 

TMD: Will relief pitcher Matt Anderson ever be back in
Detroit?

JL: I would be surprised. He’s in the last year of
his contract. He, if anything, went backwards this spring from the
way he was pitching in Toledo toward the end of last year. I will
be more surprised if we do see him than if we don’t see
him.

 

TMD: Will the outfielder Cody Ross for relief pitcher
Steve Colyer trade come back to bite the Tigers if an outfielder
gets hurt?

JL: They did need bullpen help. The previous Dodger
regime was very high on (Colyer) and turned down stronger offers
for him, I am told. There’s a general feeling in baseball
that it’s easier to find a hitter than to find a pitcher. But
every trade is a risk. If it’s a risk free trade, than that
probably means you didn’t get anything out of it.

 

TMD: Will Rule 5 pick outfielder Chris Shelton be on the
team at the end of the year?

JL: That would be very nice, but it’s hard to see
how that will happen right now if they feel the need to go with 12
pitchers (once closer Ugueth Urbina returns from Lakeland). Because
the other bench spots seem more essential than Mr. Shelton. Of
course, there is ways to juggle, ways to finagle. I think
they’d like him to be here all year, but keep in mind he
barely made the Opening Day team. It went right down to the wire
with him and (infielder Mike) DiFelice.

 

TMD: .500? Top in the Central? Where will the Tigers end
up?

JL: Keep in mind that .500 would be an improvement of 38
games. Just roll that around for a minute. So, that would be an
amazing, amazing upgrade to have 38 more wins. But, the Central was
the weakest division last year, and it looks to be weaker overall
right now than it did at the end of last year. Especially with the
pitching that Minnesota lost …

If there was ever a place for the miracle of 119 losses to a
division title, it is certainly in this division with the overall
weakness of the division and that you play so many games within the
division. Almost half the Tigers games are against teams in the
Central.

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