Tigers caravan hits the road
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT– The Detroit Tigers have started their winter caravan, an annual reminder that spring training isn’t far off.
It’s a chance for fans to start thinking about baseball again — but this season, their hopes and expectations may be a bit subdued.
“Every ballclub in baseball has been through ups and downs. The one thing that I’ve said all along is: Yes, we’re in a rebuild,” said Ron Gardenhire, Detroit’s new manager . “When I took this job I knew this coming in — we were going to move people, and we’re still maybe not done. But the thing that you have here is a bunch of guys that have been a little battle tested from last year, that are hungry.”
After a 98-loss season, the Tigers enter the 2018 campaign with minimal buzz. Since last year’s All-Star break, they’ve traded J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler, part of a rebuilding process that will probably require a lot of patience among the fan base. The next couple years could be difficult on the field — a far cry from a few seasons ago, when Detroit ruled the AL Central.
The Tigers met with media at Comerica Park on Thursday, part of this week’s caravan, which includes events all over Michigan. If the fans need a pep talk — or at least some reassurance — Gardenhire can try to provide that.
“We’re going to prepare these guys to come and do battle,” Gardenhire said. “How it goes, we don’t know, but we’re going to prepare to beat people. That’s the only way you know how. Yes, we’re going to rebuild this organization, but we’ve got a good start with some very talented people.”
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still on the roster, although they aren’t involved in the caravan. The most prominent player at Comerica on Thursday may have been Michael Fulmer, the 24-year-old right-hander with only two big league seasons under his belt.
With Verlander gone and Cabrera getting older, Fulmer — the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year — is the type of player who can become a face of the franchise.