Opening Day FAQ: White Sox-Tigers

April 8th, 2022

The Tigers and White Sox ended last season as familiar foes with a budding rivalry, encapsulated by a benches-clearing incident involving Tim Anderson, José Abreu, Niko Goodrum and Alex Lange. As far as the Tigers are concerned, that’s history.

Still, as Detroit opens its season with lofty expectations to contend for a playoff spot, it has American League Central champion Chicago in its sights starting with Opening Day on Friday afternoon at Comerica Park.

“I think the rivalry is because they’re the defending champs and they’ve been the best in class the last few years,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “And I think we’re getting better, and the expectation to win, internally, has grown. That creates rivalry. The winning creates rivalry more than anything else.

“They’re the team that’s in first place, so if you’re not rivals with them, then what are you doing?”

If the Tigers are going to take the next step, then games like this are a good place to start. Detroit finished 77-85 last season for its best record since 2017, but it went 30-46 against the AL Central. That included 12 losses in Detroit’s first 16 division games as part of an 8-22 start overall.

When is the game and how can I watch it?
Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET and will be available on MLB.TV. The game will be televised on Bally Sports Detroit and FOX 2 (for Tigers fans) and NBC Sports Chicago (for White Sox fans). The radio broadcast will be available on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit and ESPN 1000 in Chicago, as well as each team’s respective radio networks and MLB Audio online.

The starting lineups
White Sox
: The absence of Anderson from the top of the White Sox lineup is not an egregious oversight. The catalyst of this offense had a three-game suspension handed down to him in the last week of the 2021 season reduced to two games and a $10,000 fine -- to be served at the outset of 2022. Anderson received that suspension for making contact with an umpire during a benches-clearing and bullpen-clearing disagreement at Comerica Park. Andrew Vaughn was doubtful for the opener no less than one week ago after sustaining a right hip pointer while making a lunging catch in right-center, but he’s back and ready to go. Keep an eye on Luis Robert, who used right and right-center quite a bit during Cactus League action. He could be primed for a Most Valuable Player-caliber type season. With Yoán Moncada opening the season on the injured list with a right oblique ailment, Jake Burger gets the nod at third.

Tigers: Monday’s trade for outfielder Austin Meadows fills the void left by Riley Greene, who was poised to join Spencer Torkelson and make his MLB debut in center field before being sidelined by a fractured foot. Torkelson’s arrival at first base sets up a likely stable group of starting infielders, with Jonathan Schoop moving from first base back to his natural spot at second. Javier Báez will make his Tigers debut in the third spot. Miguel Cabrera is expected to move down to the fifth spot for the first time since 2008, his first season with Detroit.

Who are the starting pitchers?
White Sox
: The decision for manager Tony La Russa was between Lucas Giolito, who is the team’s ace, and Lance Lynn, who finished third in the AL Cy Young voting in ’21. The nod officially went to Giolito after Lynn sustained a slight tear of a tendon near his right knee. He underwent surgery on Tuesday in Chicago. Giolito is absolutely deserving of the honor as he starts on Opening Day for the third straight season, marking the first White Sox pitcher to do so since Mark Buehrle (2008-11), and the first right-hander since Jack McDowell (1991-94).

“The first one was interesting because there were no fans [due to the pandemic],” Giolito said of his 2020 Opening Day experience. “Just trying to set the tone the right way for the club. Coming out and just establishing in Game 1 what we’re all about. It starts with, for me, taking the ball, going out there and doing what I know how to do.”

Tigers: Eduardo Rodriguez will make his Detroit debut on Opening Day, the first Tigers starting pitcher to do so since Kenny Rogers in 2006. Casey Mize had a strong case coming off a solid rookie season, but Hinch cited Rodriguez’s experience in big atmospheres and presence in key games as the choice, which he made early in the offseason. It’ll be the first Opening Day assignment for Rodriguez, but he was on track to start on Opening Day for the Red Sox before a bout of dead arm pushed him back.

“It’s something special. I can’t wait to go up there,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want anybody to tell me [what to expect from an Opening Day atmosphere at Comerica Park]. I want to see it for myself and enjoy it.”

How might the bullpens line up after the starter?
White Sox
: Liam Hendriks has been the best closer in the game over the past two seasons. How dominant has he been? In those two years, Hendriks fanned 150 and walked 10 in the last 96 1/3 innings while logging 52 saves. Kendall Graveman was added via free agency and he will be the primary right-handed setup man, while Aaron Bummer returns in that role from the left side. But La Russa approaches the season with a win each day philosophy, so even a pitcher targeted as part of the rotation, such as Vince Velasquez, could find himself in relief during that first series.

Tigers: Gregory Soto finally earned the closer title from Hinch after pitching most of the save situations while healthy last year -- leading the team with 18 saves and earning an All-Star selection in the process. He’s one of the hardest throwers in the league, averaging over 98 mph with his fastball, as well as his sinker. Michael Fulmer saved 14 games last year after his transition from the rotation, but he settles into a setup role behind Soto. Fulmer is still trying to find his timing after a rough Spring Training. With Andrew Chafin and Kyle Funkhouser opening the season on the injured list, the Tigers have some flux between their starters and their late-inning duo. Look for former closer Joe Jiménez and hard-throwing right-hander Alex Lange, who had a dominant stretch run as a rookie last year, to play big roles alongside José Cisnero.

Any injuries of note?
White Sox
: Garrett Crochet underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the season, which is a significant setback for the bullpen and as the hybrid reliever/starter for this team.

“Cro was a huge hit,” catcher Yasmani Grandal told “I talk to guys around the league all the time. They don’t really mention too many guys, but the one guy they do mention is him. That right there tells me a lot.”

Lynn is also out after right knee surgery.

Tigers: Chafin (groin) and Funkhouser (lat) will open the season on the injured list, forcing Hinch to adjust his middle relief. Greene was on track to make the team as the starting center fielder, but a fractured right foot is expected to sideline him until at least June.

Who's hot and who's not?
White Sox
: Cactus League statistics are rarely indicative of anything moving forward, so we’ll dispense with the numbers. But Anderson looks locked in at the top of the order, and the same with Robert.

Tigers: Torkelson, ranked as baseball’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, earned his Opening Day call with some of the best at-bats of camp. Beyond his Spring Training numbers, including four doubles, he had prolonged battles against veteran pitchers, including an 11-pitch duel with Aaron Nola that ended in Torkelson’s first home run in a Tigers uniform. Akil Baddoo went 5-for-8 with a double, triple and a home run in a three-game stretch of Grapefruit League play. Jeimer Candelario overcame an 0-for-11 start to heat up over the final week of camp.

Anything else fans might want to know?
• Harrison is the ninth starting second baseman for the White Sox in the last nine years. Gordon Beckham (2010-13) was the last to start two consecutive Opening Days at that position.

• First baseman/designated hitter Gavin Sheets is the son of former Major Leaguer Larry Sheets, who played for the Tigers in 1990.

• Abreu makes his ninth straight Opening Day start at first base. Since 1991, Frank Thomas (1991-97, 1999-2000), Paul Konerko (2001-13) and Abreu (2014-22) have made every Opening Day start at first for the White Sox aside from Greg Norton in 1998.

• Yes, the White Sox will be missing Anderson, but he’s 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts for his career against Rodriguez.

• The Tigers open their season at home with Comerica Park at full capacity for the first time since 2018, when they lost a 13-10 thriller in 13 innings in front of 42,516.

• Cabrera is 13 hits shy of becoming the seventh player in MLB history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He’s a .287 career hitter against the White Sox, but he’s 16-for-94 with 25 strikeouts against Chicago pitching over the past two seasons. He’s 6-for-28 lifetime off Giolito, but he went 4-for-14 last year with two homers off the right-hander.

Torkelson is the first Tiger to make his Major League debut on Opening Day since Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore in 2010.