04/04/2013 3:28 PM ET
Home-opening series to feature several festivities
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers will start off a weekend of remembering last season's run to the World Series during their home-opening series against the team they swept out of the American League Championship Series last October to get to the Fall Classic.
The team will raise its 2012 AL championship banner Friday before the home opener against the Yankees. Willie Horton, part of the heart of the 1968 World Series championship club, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to ex-teammate and current Tigers broadcaster Jim Price. Motown legends The Four Tops will sing the National Anthem prior to the 1:05 p.m. ET start.
The team will also hold a moment of silence to remember the late Virgil Trucks, former Tigers pitching great who passed away last month.
The next day, members of the 2012 AL champions will receive their championship rings in a pregame ceremony that will include Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder receiving their 2012 AL Silver Slugger awards.
Leyland: No set closer a 'second-guesser's delight'
MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether Jose Valverde's return on a Minor League contract was the Tigers' reaction to their closer by committee setup, manager Jim Leyland had his own reaction Thursday.
Leyland had predicted in Spring Training that having no set closer would be a "second-guesser's delight." He was anticipating the questions about his bullpen usage after Eduardo Escobar's two-run double off Phil Coke Wednesday completed the Twins' comeback for a 3-2 win.
"When you're doing this by committee, there are going to be questions every time," Leyland said. "But you know what this boils down to? ... If you win the game, it was good, and if you didn't win the game, it was bad. Period. Make up your mind. That's the way it is. This is about wins."
He saw his former closer turned Rays All-Star Fernando Rodney give up a lead for Tampa Bay Wednesday night, and he saw Chris Perez do the same for Cleveland. In the Tigers' case, however, it wasn't a full-time closer.
"Sometimes people act surprised, but it's been going on forever in baseball," Leyland said. "Usually the kiss of death is a one-run lead in the ninth inning when you walk the leadoff guy. We've all watched it for a thousand years. A lot of times it comes back to bite you. Sometimes it doesn't. When you duck it, you're real happy and very fortunate. That's pretty simple. That happens.
"One of the best relief pitchers in the league, in my opinion, is [Joaquin] Benoit. Popped the [leadoff hitter] straight up on the first pitch [on Opening Day]. The second day, he happened to walk him. So what? That happens."
Both the Rays and Indians, however, rallied after that and won. In the Tigers' case, it was a walkoff blow
Kelly gets the start in left in series finale
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland played his regular lineup the first two games against the Twins, and he planned on playing it again for Friday's home opener. On Thursday, he made one change, starting Don Kelly in left field over Andy Dirks.
It was the one day this week he saw an opportunity to start Kelly, he said. If that concern is any hint, it sounds like he could end up playing a little more early this season than last year, when Kelly started one out of the Tigers' first 12 games.
"Dirks is gonna play tomorrow and the next day, and you've got a left-hander Sunday," Leyland said, "so now [Kelly] will be sitting too long [otherwise]. Dirks is fine. That's just that you want to get him in there."
Kelly went 1-for-2 with a single under the glove of Twins second baseman Jamey Carroll. Matt Tuiasosopo made his Tigers debut pinch-hitting for Kelly when the Twins went to lefty reliever Brian Duensing in the sixth.