DETROIT -- The historic Tigertown Spring Training complex boasted a new look last year thanks to an extensive renovation project. This year, it's the Tigers' turn to reconstruct.For the first time in several years, the Tigers go to camp without a win-now urgency. Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and
DETROIT -- The historic Tigertown Spring Training complex boasted a new look last year thanks to an extensive renovation project. This year, it's the Tigers' turn to reconstruct.
For the first time in several years, the Tigers go to camp without a win-now urgency. Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez are gone, leaving Jose Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nicholas Castellanos as the most recognizable veterans. The most familiar newcomer in camp will be the manager, as old nemesis Ron Gardenhire takes over. The anticipation in Lakeland, Fla., will revolve as much around prospects -- such as Alex Faedo, last year's first-round Draft pick, and Jake Rogers -- as it does around returning veterans.
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The Tigers haven't had a camp with this much change, personnel-wise and philosophically, in nearly a decade. And yet, amid the transition, there's a sense of renewal that hasn't been around Tigertown since maybe 2010, when Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Alex Avila heralded a mini youth movement.
"I think the whole message from all the coaching staff I've met is we're going to go out and have fun," Michael Fulmer said. "We've got no pressure, no stress. We're not here to shock the world or listen to what anybody else has to say. We're going to keep our heads to the grindstone and go out and compete and try to win games and have fun doing it."
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That sense of competition will be evident, more so within camp. While the goal is to further develop young pitchers Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, Joe Jimenez and others, all of them will have competition for their jobs due to offseason signings and non-roster invites. JaCoby Jones will be battling for a spot in the outfield after the signing of center fielder Leonys Martin. Dixon Machado will try to show he can hit enough to hold down the everyday job at second base.
Neither Faedo nor Rogers nor outfielder Mike Gerber will be battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but they'll be trying to make a case they're not far away from the big leagues. Faedo heralds the next group of pitching prospects, one that isn't expected to arrive until late this season at the earliest. So the time is now for Boyd and Norris to make the claim that they're ready to take the next step in their careers.
This spring is a lot about a new Tigers staff figuring out what they have.
"With a young team, position player-wise or pitchers, you don't really know what you have," new pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "You don't know if you have superstars, All-Stars or future Hall of Famers. You hope you do. The talent is there, but they have to go out, and they have to do it. They'll be given that opportunity to have success in many different roles, and Gardy's going to put them in a spot where they can succeed, and hopefully we're going to win a lot of games around here."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.