(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 5-2
This Week: (4/29-5/1: at NYY; 5/2-5/4: at Min)

Slowly, but surely, they come. One by one, the Tigers are getting healthier, and better. Still a work in progress. Still big-time questions about Gary Sheffield. And Dontrelle Willis. And the starting rotation, in general. But .500 is now no longer a tiny dot that can only be viewed with high-powered binoculars.

They’re 11-15 now, after a good 5-2 week — not even which a 1-2 weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels could ruin. Manager Jim Leyland finally has his 1-thru-9 lineup together (albeit with a decidedly less-than-100% Sheffield and a just-getting-healthy Placido Polanco), and a young man named Armando Galarraga has been a pleasant rotation surprise.

I still figure it’ll take the Tigers a full 40 games — 25% of the season — before they cross .500 and put it further and further in their rear view mirror.

The good news is that no one is really running away with the Central Division. The team that figures to be the Tigers’ main competition, the Cleveland Indians, are only 12-13. The Tigers haven’t been buried by their strange April, just surprised.

Curtis Granderson’s return is as welcome as a bottle of cold water is to a man stranded in the desert. There hasn’t been much contribution from spots 1-2-3 in the batting order, and Granderson has changed that all by himself in the few games he’s played since his return from a hand injury, suffered late in spring training. With Polanco and Sheffield hurting and hitting well below .200 each, Granderson’s infusion of speed, power, and spray hitting will help the Tigers immeasurably. Not to mention his mere presence, which must be a soothing sight for his teammates.

This week it’s the Yankees, in New York. The Bronx Bombers are scuffling along at 13-13, not unlike their slow start of 2007. Actually, it’s better than they started last year, considerably. The Yankees were 21-29 at one point in ’07. But they haven’t played their best baseball yet, either. It’s always a big series when you play the Yankees, but this time it’s more to see where the Tigers are at as opposed to how they measure up against the Yanks. Right now it’s all about getting your own house in order. Because as Sparky Anderson once said, you ain’t done nothin’ till you get to .500

After New York, it’s one of many visits to the God-awful Metrodome in Minnesota. That thing is in its 27th baseball season, amazingly. Why don’t the good folks up there spring for a new ballpark already? Even the Vikings don’t deserve something as hideous as the HHH Metrodome.

Quick thought on the Carlos Guillen-Miguel Cabrera position swap: it’s becoming more apparent to me that the move was much more of an indictment on Cabrera’s glove than Guillen’s, despite the supposed concern over the latter’s footwork at first base. Footwork at 1B can be taught much easier than prowess at 3B. You either can play third or you can’t. Most anyone can be groomed into a serviceable first sacker. Except for maybe Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart. Still one of the greatest nicknames in baseball history.


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