If the last week of spring training is any indication, nothing is going to come easy this year for the Tigers.
Just when it seemed the roster was coming into shape, rookie phenom-to-be Riley Greene fouled a Gerrit Cole pitch off his foot. He then got back in the batter’s box and proceeded to hit a triple.
But in the next half-inning, he hobbled into the training room, and the eventual diagnosis was not ideal: a fractured bone. No surgery, but Greene will be on the shelf for what appears to be at least the next two months.
“It sucked. It sucks right now,” Greene said, according to MLive.com. “The first couple of days I was kind of bummed. But I’m just trying to take something bad and turn it into a positive. Things happen for a reason. I really do believe that.”
And in this case, the reason is clear enough: The Tigers went out and grabbed former all-star outfielder Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays.
We have acquired OF Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for INF Isaac Paredes and a competitive balance-B pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. pic.twitter.com/33E6FppgET
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 5, 2022
Meadows, 27, is coming off a 27-home run 2021 campaign in which he was supremely unlucky at the plate, as evidenced by his .249 BABIP.
The trade was also notable because it continued to send the signal that the five-year rebuild of the team is over, and management is expecting a contender (or something close to it).
But the sportsbooks continue to disagree, with the Tigers’ chances of winning the AL Central pegged at +800 on DraftKings, which is up from +750 a week ago, which was up from +700 in the beginning of spring training.
All of those numbers would seem to hang on the trio of young arms in the rotation: Tyler Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning.
Mize, Manning, Skubal breakout seasons https://t.co/kEwW8LS5GL
— Buckeye Zone6 (@Buckeye_Zone6) April 4, 2022
Let’s look closer at those young pitchers and why the Tigers’ hopes hinge on them.
At FanDuel, the odds for the Tigers’ opening day tilt at home against the AL Central favorite (-195 to win the division) Chicago White Sox are telling. In the battle between Lucas Giolito and Detroit’s newly acquired Eduardo Rodriguez, the Chisox are “only” a -134 moneyline favorite (with the Tigers at +114).
Clearly, if clones of Rodriguez could take the hill every day, the sportsbooks might be singing a different tune about the Tigers’ chances in 2022. Which is why the trio of young arms — Skubal is the oldest, at 25 — are clearly holding the key to the Tigers’ chances to contend.
Meanwhile, in a wholly expected development, Spencer Torkelson made the team and is expected to be the everyday first baseman for the next 20 years or so.
Tigers #1 prospect Spencer Torkelson said Miguel Cabrera is the one who told him he’ll be on the Opening Day roster while giving him a big hug
Cabrera has said several times how willing he is to DH in order to give Torkelson a spot pic.twitter.com/bFU6z4F9ra
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 3, 2022
Torkelson’s Rookie of the Year odds are steady at +500 on BetMGM, behind Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals at +300 and Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners at +400.
The Tigers-White Sox opening day game is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Weather may play a role, with temperatures expected in the mid-40s with on-and-off showers throughout the day.
Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY