Baseball is back in the Motor City with a fresh 25-man roster that includes some unfamiliar faces that will be sporting the Old English ‘D’ this year.
With Ron Gardenhire at the helm in his first year with the team, the Detroit Tigers are in full rebuild mode; bringing low expectations and a little less excitement than usual to 2018’s Opening Day. Gardenhire himself is no stranger to Detroit, as his twelve-year tenure as manager with the Minnesota Twins brought him to Comerica Park plenty of times each season.
Tigers fans may feel a bit weird not seeing the likes of Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez at Comerica on Friday, but there are many new faces that will be in the lineup that Tigers fans should get to know that have not yet made a regular season appearance for the team:
SP – Francisco Liriano #38 (LHP)
The 34 year-old will reunite with Ron Gardenhire as Liriano served as the Twins’ premier pitcher back in his time with the team. Liriano was a signed as a free-agent to a one-year deal in the offseason, and will hope to provide some stability and veteran experience to the rotation if he can avoid falling victim to yet another injury-filled season.
SP – Mike Fiers #50 (RHP)
Also a free-agent signing on a one-year deal, Fiers is coming off of a World Series win with the Houston Astros. Fiers is currently on the 10-day disabled list, but will surely play a part on the pitching staff in some capacity once he is healthy.
RP – Johnny Barbato #51 (RHP)
Barbato was claimed off of waivers from the Pirates in the offseason, and has a great chance to be a go-to guy for Gardenhire in the bullpen. The 25 year-old is also on the 10-day disabled list himself, but will be inserted right into the bullpen when he is ready to go.
CF – Leonys Martin #12
Don’t let the age fool you, this 30 year-old can fly. Despite posting a .172 batting average between time with the Cubs and Mariners last year, the Tigers scooped up Martin for his defensive capabilities and veteran presence he can bring to the clubhouse.
OF – Victor Reyes #22
The 23-year-old Venezuelan was picked up in the Rule 5 draft back in December. Reyes brings some incredible speed and defensive capabilities to the outfield, although his bat lacks major league power at the moment. Reyes was extremely impressive in spring training, earning him a spot on the roster. Reyes hit .292 in AA ball last year in the Diamondback’s organization.
IF/OF – Niko Goodrum #76
Goodrum will be serviceable in several parts of the field, but is expected to be used as a utility player mainly in the infield. Goodrum was signed as a minor-league free-agent in November, after playing most of the year last year for Minnesota’s AAA affiliate. Goodrum posted a .265 batting average before being called up for a stint in the majors and having little to show, notching just one hit in seventeen at-bats.
Fan-favorites Miguel Cabrera and Michael Fulmer will continue to lead the way for a new-look Tigers team.
Despite low expectations for the team this year, look for this young squad to bring some energy and excitement to the ballpark. Young arms in the bullpen will get their chance to cement a spot with the team for years to come as the first year in the Tigers’ rebuild kicks off on Friday when the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town.