Originally written February 01, 2013 on Tigers Weblog:
It is getting to be that time of year: TigerFest has reminded that fans that the season is on its way, they pitchers and catchers are starting to pack their bags (they report in only 11 days) the turtle is clearing its throat, and Opening Day is exactly 2 months away. Here is a scrapbook of highlights from the Tigers’ Winter Caravan and TigerFest. Well this time last season, the big problem to solve was the loss of Victor Martinez, and the big solution was the unexpected blockbuster deal to sign Prince Fielder.  This season, the offseason issues were less obvious, and as Spring Training approaches the front office has been very quiet. What does everyone think the Top 5 things to watch are now that Spring Training is around the corner? I’ll throw this list out there? Who will be the Tiger closer? It looks likely that Bruce Rondon will be given every chance to claim the job. If he does not seem up to the task, the Tigers have other options already on the staff (Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit), or could look at a late signing. Who will be the #5 starter? Rick Porcello looks like the odd man out in a very solid starting rotation. The Tigers have shown patience in not biting on any trades for him under his value. With Drew Smyly showing promise and the Tigers without another lefty in the rotation, Porcello is the odd man out. How well will Victor Martinez come back? Victor was a force in 2011, as he has been routinely throughout his career. But he is 34 and just missed an entire season. What happens if he struggles in his comeback? Who is in Left? It would seem that the job would be Andy Dirks’ to win or lose. But he is one of those guys who has been stuck with the “not a full-time player?” question mark, deservedly or not. A RHB Left Fielder to platoon with Dirks would seem to make sense, but the Tigers didn’t pick one of them up. Do we see Garcia or Castellanos there, and if so, how soon? How will Torii fit in?  Newest Tiger Torii Hunter seems to solve a huge problem from 2012, when Tiger Right-Fielders finished dead last in the AL with a .641 OPS. He also gives them a 2-hitter, a spot the Tigers have struggled to fill for a while. Torii does have a habit of making waves with his mouth though, once referring to Latin American players as imposters.
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