Some people come up with an ace in the hole, but the Tigers found their ace in Baltimore. Jason Johnson brings his wicked good curve ball to the Motown along with some veteran advice for the rest of the staff. Johnson has proven that he is a very capable pitcher that can eat up a lot of innings. He should have great success as long as he can consistently find the strike zone.
Last season Mike Maroth hit a not so very prestigious milestone. He was the first player in 23 years to lose 20 games in one season. In Maroth's defense, he had little run support all year and he also led the team in wins. It'll be interesting to see how he responds to his 2003 campaign. I suspect he will answer it with a solid year and heavy reliance on his change up. Maroth has shown outstanding character and this is why he will receive an abundance of support.
Nate Cornejo started really strong last year. He was even among the ERA leaders for a little while. Unfortunately, he too was also among the leaders of pitchers with the fewest run support. With an improved offense and another year of experience, Cornejo could really make a name for himself this season.
The Tiger's Player to be named later in the Jeff Weaver deal showed that he just maybe our new ace of the future. Jeremy Bonderman struggled a bit last season at the age of 20, but he continued to develop each of his pitches as the year progressed. All eyes will be on Bonderman, wondering if he is going to be a future star.
The fifth starter still hasn't been determined, but Nate Robertson appears to be the front runner. Armed with a nice fastball and change up, the 26 year old Robertson showed some good signs in his 8 starts. He will be fighting for the spot against Gary Knotts and Matt Roney. Each Knotts and Roney have more experience than Robertson and they both do much better against right handed hitters. Roney seems more fit for a long relief role, but should still get a look for the 5th spot.
Jason Johnson's additions will greatly improve the rotation, but the number of wins will be more dependent on the development of the young arms. The off season improvements the Tigers have made just may turn Hockey town into Tiger town once again.