Tigers start '10 with youngest rotation
Starters, with Porcello youngest, average 25.6 years
KANSAS CITY -- It probably caught a lot of Tigers fans by surprise, but with Rick Porcello beginning his second big league season at age 21 and no starters older than 28, Detroit opened the 2010 season with the youngest rotation in the Majors, according to STATS LLC.
With Porcello, 25-year-old Max Scherzer, 27-year-olds Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman and 28-year-old Dontrelle Willis, the Tigers starters average 25.6 years old. It's odd to think about, considering how many seasons Bonderman and Willis have pitched, but they both made their Major League debuts at age 20 in 2003.
The Tampa Bay Rays have the game's second-youngest rotation with an average of 26.2 years of age.
Avila makes first start of season
KANSAS CITY -- When the Tigers chose to put rookie catcher Alex Avila on the Opening Day roster, they did it fully knowing they would have to try to get him enough playing time to work on his catching skills this season. Otherwise, the decision to make him their backup catcher of the present would work against developing him into their catcher of the future.
Avila's playing time started Wednesday, when manager Jim Leyland put him into the starting lineup behind the plate for the second game of the season, catching Max Scherzer. It was the most logical spot Leyland saw for starting Avila before this weekend. Leyland will have veteran Gerald Laird catching Dontrelle Willis on Thursday, then likely doing the same for Rick Porcello in the home opener Friday opposite Cleveland lefty David Huff. Laird and Porcello developed a good chemistry working together last season.
"If I'm not going to catch him, I shouldn't have brought him," Leyland said of Avila. "So he's going to play some."
Leyland has said more than once that he doesn't have a game total in mind for Avila, who started 17 games behind the plate over the final two months of last season. A certain amount of playing time is expected to be important for Avila, who's still learning the position after converting to catcher a few years ago at the University of Alabama.
It also works into Leyland's general philosophy of trying to get his full positional roster into action within the first few games. Ramon Santiago started at shortstop Wednesday as expected. Leyland said he plans to start Ryan Raburn at second base Thursday, though he cautioned that means nothing about how much rookie starter Scott Sizemore is going to play.
"I'm going to play everybody," Leyland said. "That's what a team's all about, and that's what we're going to do."
Cabrera's streak vs. Hochevar ends
KANSAS CITY -- Miguel Cabrera has done more than his fair share of damage in Kauffman Stadium since he joined the Tigers two years ago. Luke Hochevar is one of the few Royals pitchers who has done a good job of keeping him from going out of the park. He has not, however, had an answer for getting him out.
Cabrera entered Wednesday's game with eight straight hits off Hochevar, who made the start. According to research from Trent McCotter of the Society for American Baseball Research, that's tied for the most consecutive hits a Tiger has had against an opposing pitcher since 1954, which is as far back as available research goes.
Cabrera's streak, however, ended in the first inning Wednesday when Hochevar coaxed Cabrera into a groundout.
Other Tigers with eight straight hits against a pitcher include Hall of Famer Al Kaline off Bill Monbouquette from 1961-63, Harvey Kuenn versus Dick Donovan in '58, and Lou Whitaker against Charles Nagy from '94-95.
The Major League record for most hits in consecutive at-bats against an individual pitcher belongs to Don Hoak, who was 13-for-13 with two walks in one stretch against Joe Nuxhall from 1956-60.
The odd part about Cabrera's streak is that none of his eight straight hits off Hochevar are home runs. Seven of them are singles, including an infield ground ball, with the lone exception a double. After Hochevar struck out Cabrera in their first meeting May 14, 2008, Cabrera had two singles that night, then two singles and a double in their rematch July 21 of that year. Cabrera went 3-for-3, all singles, off Hochevar last Aug. 15.
Tigers optimistic about Crosby
KANSAS CITY -- Tigers Minor League operations director Dan Lunetta expressed optimism Wednesday that highly-touted pitching prospect Casey Crosby should be able to rehab his way through his left elbow injury.
"There's some inflammation and we need to get it quieted," Lunetta said.
Crosby will open the season on the seven-day disabled list at Class A Lakeland after developing elbow tenderness. The hope is to get him throwing again within a couple weeks, though that doesn't necessarily mean throwing in games.
Any elbow injury with Crosby is going to be treated as a big deal. He underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Tigers drafted him in 2007. He came back for an outstanding 2009 season at low Class A West Michigan, where club officials kept him on a pretty strict pitch count.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.