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Avila: Starting pitching, depth behind hot start

Tigers' Minor League free agents Adduci, Hicks paying dividends
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- As the Tigers sit on top of the American League Central with their fast start, general manager Al Avila said they've performed up to expectations so far, good and bad.

"I think our team so far has performed as expected," Avila told members of the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday during the Tigers' annual luncheon with the club. "We knew we were going to have good starting pitching. We knew we were going to be good offensively. We knew we were going to struggle a little bit with the bullpen as we first started, and we're hoping to get it on track."

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DETROIT -- As the Tigers sit on top of the American League Central with their fast start, general manager Al Avila said they've performed up to expectations so far, good and bad.

"I think our team so far has performed as expected," Avila told members of the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday during the Tigers' annual luncheon with the club. "We knew we were going to have good starting pitching. We knew we were going to be good offensively. We knew we were going to struggle a little bit with the bullpen as we first started, and we're hoping to get it on track."

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The names of those offensive contributors were probably not as expected, from the production the Tigers have received from the bottom of the order with Alex Avila and James McCann to the hot start from recent callups Jim Adduci and John Hicks. The latter, at least, reinforces the emphasis that Detroit's GM placed this offseason on depth signings in the farm system.

Video: SEA@DET: McCann slugs a two-run shot to right

Though the Tigers were conservative on the Major League free-agent market this past offseason, they were more aggressive than usual on Minor League free agents, to the point that they went over budget according to Avila. In a small sample size, they're benefiting.

"We felt we've added some depth that is going to sustain us for the rest of the year, pitching and position player-wise," Avila continued. "We made it a point this year to go out and sign more six-year Minor League free agent players than we've ever had. We've increased the budget in salaries to attract better guys, and we've signed more guys than ever. As a matter of fact, we went over budget in Spring Training because we had so many players.

"I think that's helped us here early on, like Hicks, who was a waiver claim [last year] coming up and doing real well. You have Adduci coming up, who was a Minor League free agent signing, doing well. And then you see some of our role players really doing well and stepping up."

Avila's remarks were part of an hour-long session that included a question-and-answer session with players as well as questions from Tigers broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen. When Impemba asked reigning AL Rookie of the Year Award winner Michael Fulmer when he felt like he belonged in the big leagues, Fulmer said he felt safe after the season was over.

Video: DET@MIN: Fulmer strikes out seven in seven innings

"Honestly, I stayed in a hotel every single day all year," Fulmer said, "just because it's day to day and I didn't want to get locked into a big lease. I am renting this year, though."

Alex Avila, when asked what is discussed when catchers visit the mound, said he'll sometimes talk about mechanical adjustments in a pitcher's delivery, or slow down a pitcher's pace, or change the topic to get rid of the stress.

"I almost made a fantasy football trade on the mound," Avila said.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers