3/31/2013 6:40 P.M. ET
Tigers know not to take division-rival Twins lightly
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Don't tell Tigers manager Jim Leyland that the Twins are heading for a down year.
"They're going to be one of the better offensive clubs in baseball," Leyland said Sunday. "They have a terrific guy at the end [in closer Glen Perkins]. They have a terrific manager, and they're going to be very tough. I would assume they'll score a lot of runs. The report is they can hit, and they have a versatile lineup."
They don't have former Tiger tormenters Denard Span and Ben Revere anymore. Both were traded for pitching help, which is good news for Detroit. The bad news is it opened up center field for switch-hitting rookie Aaron Hicks to win out of camp.
The Tigers have scouting reports on Hicks from Spring Training, and they have input from guys who faced him in the Eastern League last year. Still, it's not the same as seeing him firsthand.
"This new kid's supposed to be a heckuva player," Leyland said.
Torii set to visit Minnesota as division rival
MINNEAPOLIS -- Torii Hunter has long since gotten used to being a visiting player at Target Field. He played 12 games here as a member of the Angels.
That was different. When he came in those years, he was just on the other team. When he takes the field Monday afternoon, he'll be on the division rivals.
It might not be the same rivalry it was a few years ago, when the Twins were annual contenders and the Tigers were trying to get there, but the memories are still fresh. And now Hunter will be wearing the other jersey.
Hunter was already thinking about that before the Tigers left Spring Training.
"When I left for the AL West [for the Angels after the 2007 season], it was a different division," Hunter explained earlier. "We were fighting for a different cause out there on the West Coast. But here, when I was with the Twins, the Detroit Tigers were my nemesis. Those guys, we wanted to beat down. And now, I'm with the Tigers, and I'm going [there] to beat the whole team. That's the plan.
"But I still have respect for them. They taught me everything I know about the game of baseball. But at the same time, in between the lines, I've gotta eat."
It still might not be enough for Hunter to get booed here. He meant enough to the franchise and the city that team ties won't break that. But it'll still be difficult to imagine Minnesotans rooting for a Tiger.
Don't expect Hunter to be affected by the cold, either the reception or the weather.
"I've been in worse than that," Hunter said about the forecast high of 35 degrees. "If you play baseball long enough, you've played in some snow, freezing rain, crazy freezing winds. You know what's in store. You just make sure to prepare your mind for it and get it done."
In fact, Hunter pointed out, he played in terrible conditions in Detroit when he was with the Twins. Ten years ago Sunday, he opened the season at Comerica Park in 38-degree weather with 21-mph crosswinds, according to the box score from baseball-reference.com.
Leyland, Tigers preparing for cold weather in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers had been following the forecast for Opening Day all week. On Sunday, they got their first taste of truly cold Minnesota weather again.
It was an optional workout requested by Tigers players, but nearly all of them seemed to be out on the field at Target Field getting ready for the elements they haven't experienced since last postseason.
The latest forecast for Monday calls for a high temperature in the low to mid-30s, with winds between 10-20 mph. According to weather.com, the forecast temperature at first pitch is 32 degrees.
The temperatures will be an adjustment, but a strong wind could have a bigger effect on the actual game. Winds were blowing out to right field during batting practice Sunday, when Prince Fielder hit a line drive off a flagpole along the right-field plaza.
"There's no sense saying it's cold, because you knew darn well for three weeks it was going to be cold," manager Jim Leyland said. "There's no sense in downplaying it. If somebody says, 'Are you cold?' I'll say, 'You're right, I'm cold.' And I think that's the best way to handle it."
One player who seemed unfazed by the temperatures was Victor Martinez, who took batting practice in short sleeves. After missing last season recovering from knee surgery, he'd play in any weather.
"He's probably the happiest guy out there right now," Leyland said. "After you sit out a year and don't get a chance to play and you like to play as much as he does, he's probably the happiest guy in the clubhouse. …
"He asked me not too long ago, 'Did you ever miss the whole season when you were a player?' I said, 'No, I did not, but it wouldn't have made much difference. With you, it made a difference. With me, there were probably some people that were very happy about that.'"
• Matt Tuiasosopo, who came to camp wearing No. 68 as a non-roster invitee, will wear No. 18 now that he's on the 25-man roster.
• The Tigers released a number of Minor League players at the end of camp this week. Among them was infielder Cale Iorg, who was seen as a potential shortstop of the future when Detroit drafted him in the sixth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and signed him to a seven-figure bonus. He hit .217 in 530 career Minor League games in the Tigers system, including .157 last year at Triple-A Toledo.
• Don't expect Leyland to get sentimental about Opening Day just yet.
"What Opening Day [does] for me," Leyland said, "is remind me we have 162 games to play. This is just the beginning of a long haul. For fans and everything, I think the long winter and spring coming and everything, it becomes a happening for them. For us, it's the first day of a long grind."