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Go North, Young Men: Detroit Tigers Add Youth to Opening-Day Roster

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Ryan Perry #74 of the Detroit Tigers poses for a portrait during Photo Day on February 21, 2009 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Matt SCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

In the last week, the Detroit Tigers made a series of moves that, in my opinion, changed the entire look of their roster. 

The Tigers got younger and faster, and now have plenty of potential. As the team prepared to pack up spring camp and head north for the summer, they made three necessary decisions that will allow them to win now, and for years to come.

 

Mar. 30

The Tigers acquire outfielder Josh Anderson from Atlanta for pitcher Rudy Darrow. 

This move was about speed and versatility.  Prior to the trade, the Detroit outfield consisted of Magglio Ordonez, the 35-year-old veteran whose speed puttered out six years ago, Carlos Guillen, the converted infielder who has played in the outfield only twice in his career, Marcus Thames, the power hitter without any speed or defensive ability to speak of, Gary Sheffield, who the Detroit brass thought was no longer physically able to play in the field, and Curtis Granderson, the lone Detroit outfielder with quality defensive ability. 

Anderson, 26, has hit .315 over 203 plate appearances in his limited time in the big leagues and, with three steals in as many spring games as a Tiger, is a threat to steal a base.

 

Mar. 31

The Tigers release Gary Sheffield.

The acquisition of Josh Anderson, who was out of minor league options, left the roster crowded. Someone had to go. The Detroit front office no longer considered Gary to be a viable candidate to play in the outfield, thus rendering him a one-dimensional player that was only useful for his bat.

Apparently, the paltry .178 batting average he posted during spring training did not convince anyone that he should keep his job as the Detroit designated hitter. It was time for the Tigers to cut ties with Sheffield and his aging bat, and move on.

 

Apr. 1

The Tigers announce that rookie pitchers Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry will make the opening day roster. 

Porcello (13.2 IP, 2.63 ERA, seven K) and Perry (12.1 IP, 0.73 ERA, 11 K) were dazzling this spring and were rewarded with roster spots, at least a year before most originally anticipated.

Porcello, 20, completes a pitching rotation with an average age of 25 and lots of potential. Perry, 22, has an electric arm, and a fastball that is regularly clocked around 97 mph. 

Ryan could see late inning work for the Tigers this season, and is a great asset in the bullpen, especially with flamethrower Joel Zumaya sidelined for the start of the season. Porcello and Perry have drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, who made the Tigers opening day roster together as rookies in 2006.

Sometimes it’s the little things, like defense, speed, and youth, that end up making the difference for a team. The Tigers got younger this week. The Tigers got better this week.

Jim Leyland said that he wanted to take the 25 best players north with him at the end of spring training, and I think he’s doing just that.

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