Young Tigers optimistic, ready to compete

Players embrace spotlight at Winter Caravan

January 25th, 2018

DETROIT -- At some point Friday, some lucky customers at the Comerica Bank on Walton Road in Rochester Hills will find a different face at the teller window. It could be the heavily bearded face of Tigers pitcher , who along with teammate Matthew Boyd were scheduled to pay a visit as part of the Tigers Winter Caravan. It follows a caravan tradition that in past years included Magglio Ordonez working a fast-food drive-thru window and waiting tables at a restaurant.

"My aunt was a banker," Norris said Thursday, "so she tried to give me some advice."

Right fielder , after being inducted into the West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame Wednesday night in Grand Rapids, was on MLB Network's Hot Stove telecast Thursday morning. He was in Lansing on Thursday as the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives honored Alan Trammell for his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Similarly, is one of the headliners of the caravan's North Bus that is trekking into Frankenmuth for its annual Snowfest.

"I love coming up here," Fulmer said. "This is my third year doing this. I wouldn't miss it."

If there was any doubt that the time is now for the youth on the Tigers, the team's annual offseason warmup is a reminder. What was once an annual showcase of Tigers stars is now, in many ways, an introduction of the supporting players into starring roles.

had to cancel his trip to Detroit at the last minute for a family medical issue. Iglesias also had to attend to a family matter and wasn't able to take part. is working out at his Florida home to be ready for Spring Training. , , J.D. Martinez, and Alex Avila -- all part of the caravan last year -- are gone.

With the Tigers embarking on a long-term rebuild, the team is investing in the future. For the youngsters who have been part of the team the last couple of years, though, the future is now, on and off the field. They're not only part of the core of the club, they're now among the more recognizable names and faces on the team for fans adjusting to a new-look roster.

"We get excited talking to fans, and getting recognized is part of it," Fulmer said. "I embrace it, and I love talking to everybody I can."

Similarly, they're embracing the challenge they face on the field when the season begins. On one hand, they've been told they have the opportunity of a low-pressure situation, the chance to perform without expectations.

"The message from all the coaching staff that I've met for the first time is that we're going to go out and have fun," Fulmer said. "We have no pressure, no stress. We're not here to shock the world or listen to what everybody 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."

Norris compared it to putting in work on a car.

"This is like a complete engine rebuild," Norris said. "We're taking the carburetor out, we're rebuilding that. We're making sure everything is functionally sound, and then we go. I think it's really important to be able to do that, and I'm excited to be a part of it."

At the same time, they don't want to accept a long season as a part of it.

"Now we're the underdog," Boyd said. "We wouldn't want to be in any other position. We're going to go out there and attack. People on the outside can think what they think about us. If that mattered, we wouldn't even play the games. There's a lot of talent in here, and we believe in each other, and I'm excited about what we can do as a team.

"We have talent, man. Maybe some guys didn't perform the way they wanted to. I know I didn't perform the way I wanted to last year. But every guy in here is capable. We're just going to go show it on the field. We believe in ourselves. What we can promise ourselves is every day we show up to the ballpark, we're going to compete. You're going to get everything that we have. If we can truly commit to that approach, when it's all said and done, I like our odds. Outside of that, we're not worried about anything else."