Tigers hope for healthy 2011 after busy offseason

Feb. 13, 2011

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) – The offseason is finally ending for the Detroit Tigers, after it started way too early for a few of the team’s key players.

Although the Tigers made some big
additions in the offseason, much of the focus this spring will be on
three players whose 2010 campaigns were cut short by injuries. Magglio
Ordonez is coming back from a broken right ankle, Carlos Guillen is
recovering from a left knee injury and Joel Zumaya returns after
fracturing his right elbow.

Those three are among the Tigers with
the most to prove this season. Detroit added Victor Martinez, Joaquin
Benoit and Brad Penny in the offseason, and the team hopes better health
in 2011 will help fuel a run at the AL Central title.

“If you give us health, I’ll take my chances,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said.

The Tigers went 81-81 last season, in
part because they couldn’t keep their lineup intact after a strong
start. Ordonez played only 84 games and was done for the year after he
fractured his ankle sliding into home plate July 24. Detroit actually
declined his $15 million option but brought him back to hit in the
middle of the lineup on a one-year, $10 million deal.

Although the Tigers won’t be on the hook
for a long-term commitment, they were obviously satisfied that Ordonez
was making a strong recovery from the injury, and he was upbeat when
talking about it last month.

“It’s like it didn’t happen,” Ordonez said.

Zumaya, the hard-throwing right-hander
who helped the Tigers to an American League pennant in 2006, hasn’t
pitched more than 31 games in a season since then. Appearance No. 31
last year was a gruesome one. He began writhing in pain after a pitch
June 28, but the news of a fractured elbow was actually somewhat
encouraging since there was no ligament damage.

Zumaya has said he’ll be able to throw
without restrictions in the first workout, which for pitchers and
catchers takes place Monday.

Guillen’s timetable has been less
clear. He hurt his knee Aug. 16 while turning a game-ending double play
against the Yankees. Now the second base spot appears up in the air.
Will Rhymes started 46 games there last year, Guillen started 45 and
Scott Sizemore started 36.

That spot isn’t the only question mark
heading into spring training. Martinez was brought in to be a designated
hitter and catch occasionally. How often will he catch? That probably
depends on how well starting catcher Alex Avila hits.

Penny joins a rotation that also adds
Phil Coke, a left-hander who has pitched almost entirely in relief in
his three major league seasons. Penny has his own history of injuries,
including a back problem that limited him to nine starts in 2010. But if
he and Coke pan out, they could join Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and
Rick Porcello to form quite a rotation.

“I love the potential of our pitching staff,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Benoit, who missed all of 2009
following rotator cuff surgery, had a 1.34 ERA as a setup man for Tampa
Bay last season. Detroit signed him to a $16.5 million, three-year
contract.

He’ll join a potentially dominant bullpen that also includes Zumaya and Jose Valverde, who saved 26 games last year.

“The owner and GM did a good job this
offseason to give us more talent,” Valverde said. “We have no excuses.
It’s our job to go to the World Series like these guys did in 2006 —
and to win it this time.”