Veteran Tigers open season vs. rebuilding White Sox
CHICAGO — The Kansas City Royals represented the American League in the World Series in 2014 and 2015, and the Cleveland Indians, another AL Central club, won the league title last year.
This season, the Detroit Tigers are determined to be the team that wins the division and chases a World Series title.
“There is more of a workmanlike atmosphere this year than other years,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said to the Detroit Free Press. “I feel good about the team. I think the players feel good about the team. I think they believe we can win a championship. I believe we can, too.”
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The first test arrives Monday when the Tigers open the season on the road against the Chicago White Sox.
As the Tigers have stacked their roster with veterans, the White Sox have turned to younger players as part of a long-term rebuilding project. The team traded left-hander Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals during the offseason in exchange for a handful of top prospects, led by 21-year-old second baseman Yoan Moncada, who will start the season with Triple-A Charlotte.
The White Sox hired Rick Renteria as manager to lead the youth movement. Renteria replaced Robin Ventura, whose contract was not renewed after five seasons without a postseason appearance.
Right-hander Justin Verlander will make his ninth Opening Day start in the past 10 seasons for the Tigers. The 34-year-old is coming off a season (16-9, 3.04 ERA) in which he finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting. He will try for his 20th career win over the White Sox, which is his most against any team except the Royals (22).
For the White Sox, left-hander Jose Quintana will make his first career Opening Day start. The Colombia native earned double-digit wins for the first time last season (13-10, 3.20 ERA) and could yield another batch of talented prospects if Chicago decides to shop him before the trade deadline.
Quintana, 28, told reporters he was happy and surprised to earn the first start.
“If they don’t tell you, you don’t know,” Quintana said. “I say, ‘Thank you, White Sox organization,’ for giving me this opportunity for my first Opening Day. Maybe they don’t know what that means for me, but it’s really a big thing.”
Several Tigers hitters could pose an early challenge for Quintana. First baseman Miguel Cabrera is hitting .349 (15 of 43) with five doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in his career against the southpaw. Teammate Victor Martinez is hitting .436 (17 of 39) with no home runs and three RBIs.
Against Verlander, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has enjoyed success throughout his career. He is hitting .379 (11 of 29) with four home runs — all solo shots — in his matchups against the high-strikeout pitcher.
Several other White Sox players cannot boast the same level of success. Veteran left fielder Melky Cabrera is a lifetime .194 hitter (7 of 36) against Verlander, and second-year shortstop Tim Anderson is hitting .143 (1 of 7).
Detroit won 12 of 19 games against the White Sox in 2016 and posted a 101-80 advantage in runs.