Tigers happy to be in great indoors
Leyland content to open 2009 season at Rogers Centre
TORONTO -- Jim Leyland didn't need to watch the weather forecast on television to know what kind of Opening Day it could've been.
The snow was falling in St. Louis as Leyland chatted on the phone with Cardinals manager and good friend Tony La Russa Monday morning. There was already a good amount of snow on the ground in Detroit. Meanwhile, the Tigers were getting ready to play under the dome of the Rogers Centre later on.
By the time the Tigers began batting practice Monday evening, the rain in Toronto had started to turn to freezing precipitation and snow.
As much as Leyland wants to be careful about his star players on the artificial surface, it beats some of the alternatives.
"I'm glad we're playing here, to be honest with you," he said Monday afternoon. "I'm thrilled we're playing here. We know we're going to be playing. We know we're going to get four games under our belt."
The Tigers had opened their last two seasons at home, so an opener at Comerica Park was probably out of the question. With the NCAA men's basketball Final Four across the street from Comerica Park at Ford Field -- Michigan State's tipoff in the championship game against North Carolina was slated for 9:21 p.m. ET on Monday night -- opening at home was definitely out of the question for congestion reasons.
Still, they could've ended up opening in another outdoor stadium in the Midwest or along the East Coast. Instead, the Tigers opened in a dome for the third time in eight years. They began the 2004 season in Toronto, and opened the '02 campaign at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
As much as Leyland needs his stars to hit in the cold to avoid another slow start like last year, this helps the transition. The games are guaranteed to be played, letting players get back to regular-season action under better conditions. Just as important, with 10 games in 10 days to start off the season, they'll get through almost a full turn in the rotation on schedule before having to contend with the elements.
"I know I'm going to get four [starting] pitchers in for sure," the skipper said. "I don't know about the fifth."
That fifth spot is looking pretty good for now. While there was snow on the ground in Detroit on Monday, temperatures are forecast for the mid to upper 40s for Friday's home opener against the Rangers, with a slight chance of showers.
That was welcome news for scheduled starter Armando Galarraga, whose wife is back in the Detroit area dealing with the last blast of winter.
"I told her, 'Don't tell me [what the weather's like],'" Galarraga joked before batting practice.
Still, not all the Tigers were warm and toasty Monday. Slugger Miguel Cabrera had his arms folded as he sat at his locker and watched the end of Monday afternoon's Indians-Rangers game on the clubhouse television. He had the misfortune of being right under the ventilation system.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.