Tigers' Opening Day brings MLB playoff hopes to Detroit
Baseball is back.
Major League Baseball opened the 2022 season Thursday. Now it's the Tigers' turn.
They'll play their first game Friday when they host the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.
Jon Morosi covers baseball for MLB Network. He's also a contributor to Fox Sports Radio and other outlets, and lives in Michigan. Morosi talked to Morning Edition host Doug Tribou about what to expect this season.
Opening Day: Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park, April 8 at 1:10 p.m.
Doug Tribou: Opening Day and a full 162-game schedule were not a sure thing this year. MLB owners locked out the players for months while the sides negotiated a new labor agreement. What are the biggest changes off the field to come out of that deal?
Jon Morosi: I think the key things the players wanted to achieve were greater salaries and wages for younger players, which they certainly have achieved in this agreement. Players are getting paid more in the earlier years when teams have increasingly wanted them to be on their clubs. Of course, as they get a little bit older, their production typically wanes.
Also, [there are now] some mechanisms in the agreement that incentivize teams to have the very best young players on the roster from the first day of the season. There used to be some service-time issues where players were being kept in the minor leagues [longer to avoid certain contractual issues]. But as we're seeing right now with Spencer Torkelson in Detroit, those young players are arriving on schedule.
DT: And we're going to talk about Spencer Torkelson in just a moment. On the field, fans will see quite a few differences this season, as well. One of the most notable is the universal designated hitter. That means National League pitchers won't have to bat anymore, and American League pitchers won't have to bat when they're visiting National League ballparks. What other changes are coming to actual play on the field?
The Tigers are coming off their best season in several years. In 2021, they had 77 wins and finished in third place in the American League Central.
JM: We'll see the extra-inning rule that allows to have that one base runner at second base when the [extra] innings begin. That is back this year. But one of the things that's interesting about this year is that catchers now have the option of having this electronic communication system with their pitcher, where basically it's almost a remote control on the catcher's wrist. Going into a small [speaker] in the pitcher's hat that allows the pitcher to be communicated with from the catcher without having to have different sets of signs [for pitches].
This is a direct consequence of the sign stealing that we've seen in the game in recent years. If you see a catcher tapping on his wrist, there actually is something like a remote control on a catcher's wristband. How about that?
DT: And probably planning what restaurant to go to after the game as well? [Laughs]
JM: 100%. The post-game dinner, that can all be planned by that remote control, as well.
DT: The Tigers have some new faces on the roster this spring, including first baseman Spencer Torkelson. Let's start with him and who else Tigers fans should be looking for this year.
JM: It's really an exciting season for the Tigers. I think this is one of their more highly anticipated seasons that we've seen from them, probably in a decade. This team is that good. I think they can make the playoffs. It's going to take some work. And you're right, it begins with Torkelson playing first base. He is someone who struggled last year in spring training and early on in the year for [the] West Michigan [Whitecaps] after being the number one overall [draft] pick in 2020. And he was able to recover and finish at Triple-A with some very good numbers.
They've got Javier Baez to play shortstop. They've signed Eduardo Rodriguez to be the Opening Day starter along with this really young [pitching] staff. Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, who very importantly do not have any innings limitations based on last year.
The Tigers have done a very good job of cultivating this young talent, and they are ready to compete for a playoff spot.
DT: Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera reached one of baseball's great milestones last season when he hit his 500th career home run. But fans have another reason to be on Miggy watch at the start of this season. He's just 13 hits shy of 3,000. How significant would that milestone be for Cabrera's place in the game?
JM: It's such a unique group of people in the history of baseball who have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. It is the elite of the elite. The hall of fame of the hall of fame, if you will. That's going to certainly be a milestone to watch, and it really could happen before the end of April, so one great reason, I would say, to brave the cold and buy a ticket to watch a game at Comerica early this season.
Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to full interview near the top of this page.