Brrrr-ing on baseball: Twins, Tigers to open under adverse conditions
MINNEAPOLIS — Batter up? More like bundle up.
The Detroit Tigers open the season today in frosty Minnesota, where forecasts call for temperature in the low 30s at game time at outdoor Target Field. The wind chill is expected to be around 20 degrees. So the Tigers will need all the heat they can get from Justin Verlander’s 100 mph fastballs.
“It’s going to be cold but I’ve pitched in that kind of weather before,” Verlander said. “I don’t think about it. It’s always cold in Detroit on opening day.”
But this cold? If the forecast holds true, it has the potential to be the coldest opening day on record in Minnesota, dating to 1961. The coldest was 33 degrees in 1963. There was plenty of debate when the Twins were designing a new stadium about building one with a roof to shield them from the elements. The first three seasons in Target Field have been mostly beautiful, with few rainouts and generally warm weather once the season began.
Major League Baseball put the Twins on the road to start each of the first three seasons at Target Field, a seven-game trip in 2010, a six-game trip in 2011 and a three-gamer last year. Maybe after seeing all the warm weather the last few years, MLB’s schedule makers decide to tempt fate because this is the first time the Twins will open the season at home.
“No one likes playing in the cold,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. “But at the same time, we’re going to be playing opening day in a Major League Baseball game. Isn’t that enough?”
Verlander will get the ball for the Tigers against Vance Worley, who came to the Twins in a trade with Philadelphia this offseason. Verlander certainly will have the money to buy himself a nice warm coat for the trip. He agreed to a $180 million, seven-year deal with the Tigers on Friday, the richest given to a pitcher.
“I think it is a great situation for him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s good for him, it’s good for the organization, and it’s good for the fans.”
As crazy as it sounds, the guy who is widely considered the best pitcher in the American League might be entering this season with redemption on his mind. After winning the 2011 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award following a stellar regular season that has become almost typical, Verlander gave up five runs in four innings of his only start in the World Series, a Game 1 loss to the San Francisco Giants. The flat performance from their ace seemed to stun the Tigers, who fell to the Giants in a sweep.
Detroit added veteran outfielder, and former Twins fan favorite, Torii Hunter in the offseason to add even more punch to an offense that already is loaded with Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who returns after spending last season on the disabled list. The expectations are there once again for another deep run.
“We are going to hit, don’t get me wrong,” Leyland said. “This team is going to hit. When you have speed at the top of the lineup then guys like Hunter, Cabrera, Prince, Martinez, these guys are going to score runs. I like our pitching and I am satisfied with everything we have going for us.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wishes he could say the same. The Twins have lost more than 90 games in each of the past two seasons, with fans growing impatient about a perceived lack of investment from ownership while they play in their revenue-generating new ballpark. They have been searching for an ace for years, and there doesn’t appear to be one ready to help them anytime soon.
Worley is getting the start almost by default. He was 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in six spring training appearances, but Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno aren’t healthy enough to start the season with the big club and the rest of the rotation was underwhelming this spring as well.
“We hope to get back to where we were a couple of years ago, winning the division,” All Star catcher Joe Mauer said. “We’re looking forward to it.”