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PostSubject: GENERAL 2010 SPRING TRAINING NEWS   GENERAL 2010 SPRING TRAINING NEWS Icon_minipostedTue Feb 02, 2010 9:10 pm

Last Updated: February 02. 2010 3:42PM
Tigers' issues in full bloom as spring training nears
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

Detroit --February.

You know what that means to baseball fans -- spring training.

The Tigers will be on the field this month -- Feb. 19 for pitchers and catchers, Feb. 23 for position players. It seems light-years closer today than it did even on Friday. That's the difference, though, between February and January.

So it's time again to focus on what will be the Tigers' most compelling stories this spring. In 1-10 fashion, who's going to be under the microscope the most?

1. Austin Jackson -- Easy choice because it's up to him to show, or at least begin to show, that he can lead off for the Tigers. They're confident he can play center. In fact, they are sure he'll be every bit as good defensively as Curtis Granderson, but what will he do at the plate?

He won't hit for as much power, that's for sure. But how ready-for-the-bigs will he look? That's what they, and you, will find out this spring.

2. Scott Sizemore -- He still has screws in the left ankle/leg he broke at the Arizona Fall League. But he says it's feeling better all the time and that it shouldn't bother him (significantly) this spring.

That's good, because the Tigers have to see Sizemore play a lot this spring. He'll be replacing Placido Polanco at second base, and because Polanco didn't make many mistakes, a lot of the focus will be on Sizemore's defense.

It shouldn't be, though. He's not going to be Polanco -- and the way he'll impress us, if indeed he does, will be at the plate. Cut him a little slack defensively, give him time, and see what he does offensively instead, because the biggest question of all is where to hit him.

3. Jeremy Bonderman -- We've heard all winter that he's ready to resume his role as a mainstay in the starting rotation.

Well? Time to find out. The good thing is that even though this is Bonderman's eighth season with the Tigers, he's only 27. He has seasons on him, but not the weight of years.

It's time (in part because this is the final year of his contract) for him not only to bounce back from his surgery, but to show he can be a part of the plans down the road. Remember, even healthy, he's never won as many as 15 games in a season.

4. Brandon Inge -- It's all about his knees. How much time will he miss this spring because of his mending knees? It's not as if Inge will be inactive at the outset. But he's projected to miss at least the first half of the exhibition schedule.

Will two weeks be enough time to get ready -- to see enough live pitching to have the same kind of first half he had last year? It was the first half that made him an All-Star -- before he slumped to .186 the second half as his knees progressively got worse.

So this spring, there will be a lot of "how ya feeling?" questions for Inge. Maybe even daily as mid-March approaches.

5. Max Scherzer -- What do we really know about him as a pitcher? That he has a good arm, that he's a strikeout guy, and that the Tigers believe he will competently replace Edwin Jackson.

That's all well and good. But will he be a horse? In 30 starts last year, Scherzer averaged fewer than six innings -- and that's OK because it was his first full season of starting. Plus spring training isn't the time to average six innings.

But it's a good time to strengthen the impression that you can. Come April, the Tigers will have a much better idea of whether they've acquired a 210-inning horse.

6. Carlos Guillen -- It's essential for him to bounce back at the plate. He'll play left field, and do some DHing. That'll work itself out, but he needs to be a full-season force offensively and to feel strong all year. With a good spring, obviously he could create some needed buzz that he's all the way back.

In his best stretch last year, which occurred in July-August, Guillen hit .287 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs in 115 at-bats. The Tigers gladly will take production like that.

7. Magglio Ordonez -- If he keeps looking like the hitter he was from August on (.401), everything will be fine. Maybe even the RBIs will return. But, seriously, this is a better spring for Ordonez even before it starts. The reason? No World Baseball Classic.

8. Joel Zumaya -- He's always a big spring-training story because of the unknown of what he's still capable of doing if he could somehow stay healthy.

Hopefully this won't be another spring during which the comment "Joel's in the trainer's room" also means "uh-oh."

9. Fifth Starter -- Come and get it. This will be an intriguing elimination process from mid-March on. Lots of candidates, with no clear early favorite.

Nate Robertson wants to win the job, of course; Armando Galarraga sounds determined; one last chance for Dontrelle Willis; and maybe a stretched-out look at Phil Coke.

It's up for grabs.

10. Left-handed hitter-- The Tigers haven't acquired one yet, but they hope to.

From The Detroit News:

“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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