Tigers to open home schedule against Royals
After a week on the East Coast to start the season, Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers can hardly wait to see a friendly crowd.
The Tigers play their home opener Friday when they host the Kansas City Royals after beginning the season with six straight games on the road. Leyland said before Thursday night's game at Baltimore he planned to be at Comerica Park at 9:30 a.m. Friday, more than five hours before the first pitch.
''We've been on the road two months,'' the manager said.
The Tigers made several big moves in the offseason, adding players such as Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit and Brad Penny. They entered the season hoping to make a run at the American League Central title despite a spring training that was marred by slugger Miguel Cabrera's arrest in February on suspicion of drunken driving.
Detroit dropped two of three in a season-opening series against the Yankees, then traveled to Baltimore and split the first two games of a three-game series there.
Cabrera homered three times in the first five games, and the Tigers have stood behind him despite his off-field problems. The first 10,000 fans at Saturday's game against the Royals will also receive a Miguel Cabrera magnet schedule.
Outfielder Ryan Raburn and third baseman Brandon Inge have given the offense a boost early on, and catcher Alex Avila drove in five runs in Detroit's 7-3 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night.
Will Rhymes, who won the second base job with Carlos Guillen recovering from an injury, has struggled to get untracked at the plate. He's eager to return to Michigan.
''The fans in Detroit are some of the best fans in baseball, so we definitely look forward to getting up there and seeing them,'' he said. ''It will be nice to get in there and get settled. After being on the road for the first week after being away at spring training, it will be nice to get back there and get into a routine.''
Detroit allowed 23 runs in the three-game series in New York. Right-hander Max Scherzer was hit hard in his first start, allowing six runs in five innings against the Yankees, although he was credited with the win.
Scherzer will start the home opener against Kansas City's Kyle Davies. He said Thursday he planned to throw on the side at Camden Yards before leaving for the airport. He hoped to leave Baltimore by 6:30 p.m. to get a jump on travel.
''It's going to be fun for the home opener,'' he said. ''It's going to be a nice environment to pitch in.''
The Tigers are planning several gestures this year to honor the late Sparky Anderson, who managed Detroit to the World Series title in 1984. He died in November.
The team will raise a flag with his name on it at the home opener. The pregame ceremony will also include a military flyover and team introductions - scenes Tigers fans have had to wait an extra week for because of Detroit's opening road trip.
''We are very eager,'' Inge said. ''It's always fun to see other stadiums and how they do opening day, but at the same time there is nothing like your opening day for your home team.''