A chilly opener for Tigers and Twins

Batter up? More like bundle up.

The Detroit Tigers open the season on Monday in frosty

Minnesota, where forecasts call for temperature in the low 30s at

game time at outdoor Target Field. The wind chill is expected to be

around 20 degrees. So the Tigers will need all the heat they can

get from Justin Verlander’s 100 mph fastballs.

”It’s going to be cold but I’ve pitched in that kind of weather

before,” Verlander said. ”I don’t think about it. It’s always

cold in Detroit on opening day.”

But this cold? If the forecast holds true, it has the potential

to be the coldest opening day on record in Minnesota, dating to

1961. The coldest was 33 degrees in 1963. There was plenty of

debate when the Twins were designing a new stadium about building

one with a roof to shield them from the elements. The first three

seasons in Target Field have been mostly beautiful, with few

rainouts and generally warm weather once the season began.

Major League Baseball put the Twins on the road to start each of

the first three seasons at Target Field, a seven-game trip in 2010,

a six-game trip in 2011 and a three-gamer last year. Maybe after

seeing all the warm weather the last few years, MLB’s schedule

makers decide to tempt fate because this is the first time the

Twins will open the season at home.

”No one likes playing in the cold,” Twins second baseman Brian

Dozier said. ”But at the same time, we’re going to be playing

opening day in a Major League Baseball game. Isn’t that


Verlander will get the ball for the Tigers against Vance Worley,

who came to the Twins in a trade with Philadelphia this offseason.

Verlander certainly will have the money to buy himself a nice warm

coat for the trip. He agreed to a $180 million, seven-year deal

with the Tigers on Friday, the richest given to a pitcher.

”I think it is a great situation for him,” Tigers manager Jim

Leyland said. ”It’s good for him, it’s good for the organization,

and it’s good for the fans.”

As crazy as it sounds, the guy who is widely considered the best

pitcher in the American League might be entering this season with

redemption on his mind. After winning the 2011 AL MVP and AL Cy

Young Award following a stellar regular season that has become

almost typical, Verlander gave up five runs in four innings of his

only start in the World Series, a Game 1 loss to the San Francisco

Giants. The flat performance from their ace seemed to stun the

Tigers, who fell to the Giants in a sweep.

Detroit added veteran outfielder, and former Twins fan favorite,

Torii Hunter in the offseason to add even more punch to an offense

that already is loaded with Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and

Victor Martinez, who returns after spending last season on the

disabled list. The expectations are there once again for another

deep run.

”We are going to hit, don’t get me wrong,” Leyland said.

”This team is going to hit. When you have speed at the top of the

lineup then guys like Hunter, Cabrera, Prince, Martinez, these guys

are going to score runs. I like our pitching and I am satisfied

with everything we have going for us.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wishes he could say the same. The

Twins have lost more than 90 games in each of the past two seasons,

with fans growing impatient about a perceived lack of investment

from ownership while they play in their revenue-generating new

ballpark. They have been searching for an ace for years, and there

doesn’t appear to be one ready to help them anytime soon.

Worley is getting the start almost by default. He was 0-1 with a

5.73 ERA in six spring training appearances, but Scott Diamond and

Samuel Deduno aren’t healthy enough to start the season with the

big club and the rest of the rotation was underwhelming this spring

as well.

”We hope to get back to where we were a couple of years ago,

winning the division,” All Star catcher Joe Mauer said. ”We’re

looking forward to it.”


AP freelance writers David Dorsey in Fort Myers, Fla., and Jeff

Berlinicke in Lakeland, Fla., contributed to this report.