03/30/2013 6:29 PM ET
Leyland thankful for healthy spring
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jim Leyland kept Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera out of the lineup in Saturday's spring finale. He let Torii Hunter take one at-bat but not play the field. He repeatedly rapped his knuckles on the manager's desk inside the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field.
Leyland wanted to make sure the Tigers avoided any last-minute injuries, in much the same way that they've been fortunately free of serious ailments all spring. If all he has to worry about come Saturday night is the threat of snow showers in Minneapolis, that's just fine with him.
"When we get off the plane, it's going to be colder than hell. You don't think it is, you're crazy. So, makes no sense to make a big deal about of it," Leyland said after the Tigers ended their spring by tying the Rays, 3-3 on Saturday. "I'm just happy today we got through this game, knock on wood, injury free. A good, quick game, really. Nice crowd. It worked out good. The guys are all ready to go."
For the most part, it's been that kind of spring for the Tigers. They will face serious questions heading into the season regarding how their bullpen will function without a closer, but just about everything else has gone according to plan.
They stayed healthy, minus the right heel contusion that put Avisail Garcia on the disabled list. They set single-game and spring-long attendance records at Joker Marchant Stadium. They got to put together their Major League roster, look at some younger players and even compile a winning spring record.
"We're pretty proud of the way we do things," Leyland said. "We got the work in. We made some tough decisions. I think it was a pretty normal Spring Training. Players are pretty satisfied with it.
"Just to summarize it, I guess I would have to say off the top of my hat, it was a very successful Spring Training for three reasons. The big club is ready to go. We looked at a lot of kids. And we played around .500. That's what I always start out saying is my goal in Spring Training.
"I think we accomplished all three of those things, so I'd have to say it was pretty successful."
Leyland: Verlander's deal great for club, pitcher, fans
ST. PETERSBURG -- A day after the Tigers and ace Justin Verlander agreed to a record-breaking contract extension, Detroit manager Jim Leyland chimed in on the idea of having Verlander in a Tigers uniform for, potentially, his entire career.
The deal runs through at least 2019 and possibly 2020, if his $22 million option vests, and could make Verlander baseball's first $200 million pitcher.
"I think it was obviously a great situation for him. I think it's a great situation for the organization. I think it's a great situation for the fans," Leyland said. "He's been with the Tigers for going on his eighth year, [and he could stay] conceivably 15 years or maybe 16. That's pretty much a whole career. I think that's got a nice ring to it."
Leyland credited Tigers owner Mike Ilitch for being so willing to invest in the club, something he's shown no hesitation in doing over the past few years in particular, and for doing everything in his power to push Detroit toward another World Series title.
"We're very fortunate to have an owner that steps up to the plate, and we're very fortunate to have players that want to play here," Leyland said. "Obviously one of those reasons is because the owner steps up to the plate, but I also like to think that the fans and the organization itself created a good atmosphere here where guys like it.
"We normally don't have guys running off to play somewhere else. I think that's a compliment to the organization."
After strong start, Fister focuses on home opener
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked before his club's Spring Training finale whether Saturday's outing held any more significance for Doug Fister. The right-hander's next start will come Friday in Detroit's home opener against the Yankees, and he struggled all spring.
That made Saturday fairly important, right?
"I don't think so," Leyland said Saturday morning. "The most important start is next week."
But it was hard to deny that Fister's final spring start was an encouraging one, especially considering that he began the day with a 6.52 ERA this spring. He allowed only two runs, on solo homers by James Loney and Ryan Roberts, and seven hits while striking out four over six innings. He ramped his pitch count up to 96, throwing 63 of those pitches for strikes.
"It's another step in the right direction for me," Fister said. "I felt like today was much better timing-wise and just that feel. Working on a few pitches here and there. Just trying to get fine-tuned ready for six days from now."
"I thought he pitched really well. He commanded much better, used his pitches, changed speeds," Leyland added. "[Roberts] double-clutched on one, hit the home run off that curveball, but I thought he did very well."
• Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello pitched in a Minor League game in Lakeland, Fla., and struck out two while allowing just one hit over three innings. Porcello is scheduled to start Detroit's third game of the season Thursday against the Twins at Target Field.
• The Tigers announced Saturday that they will raise the 2012 American League champions flag as part of the pregame festivities leading up to their home opener at Comerica Park on Friday.
The national anthem will be performed by Motown legends The Four Tops, and Staff Sergeant Patrick Jefferson of the United States Air Force will deliver the game ball.
Willie Horton, part of the 1968 World Series champion Tigers, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Horton's pitch will be caught by his former teammate and current Tigers radio broadcaster, Jim Price.