Among the returning starters, the Tigers have had little as far as bad news is concerned.
Ivan Rodriguez made headlines around the nation when he arrived at camp noticeably slimmer, knocking off a good 20 pounds. Some immediately jumped to the conclusion that Pudge had gone off the ‘roids and would see his offensive production suffer. Well, the year is very young, but all indications are that Rodriguez is hitting the ball just as well as ever, and while his power numbers might continue to slip slightly, there should be no question about his ability at the plate.
The same cannot be said for one of the team's other high paid hitters; Bobby Higginson. Besides rapidly-declining defensive skills, Higginson still has made no great strides and while he has once again re-worked his swing, there's little confidence Higginson will regain his 2000 form.
Luckily, in the outfield spot expected to be occupied opposite Magglio Ordonez, Rondell White already appears to be in midseason form, making solid contact and swinging for power. The questions with White never surround his ability at the plate, but rather his ability to stay healthy. But even if he doesn't, the team appears likely to keep Craig Monroe, who is always swinging well this spring training.
But possibly the most notable hitter that has been impressing has been one that has faced the most adversity over his past few years with the Tigers. After being on the verge of being without a job just a year ago, Brandon Inge is now emerging as a legitimate threat offensively. The Tigers weren't sold on his ability at the hot corner, but Inge appears to be trying to force their hand, and may just work his way all the way to the top of the order, especially if Alex Sanchez doesn't solve his patience issues at the plate.
Sanchez is an excellent bunter, but still seems unwilling to take a walk. The same goes for Nook Logan, who hasn't showed much patience and continues to prove to be incapable of being anything more than a slap hitter. So, the Tigers have two options at centerfield; and neither of which are emerging as strong candidates.
While those two idly exist in the outfield, the Tigers have another outfielder making a name for himself. DeWayne Wise, who was acquired off waivers last fall, has impressed both offensively and defensively thus far in the spring. While it's still extremely early and there are four weeks until Opening Day, Wise may be emerging as the leading candidate for the team's final outfield position, especially with his ability to play all three outfield positions.
Another outfielder acquired this past offseason hasn't dominated yet; but has sure appeared as an imposing force. Byron Gettis had an excellent season in the Puerto Rican League over the winter, and standing at 6-foot and 240 pounds, Gettis is a large man that appears to possess the pure strength and force few others do. He may not be ready for the big leagues just yet, but he certainly will have his presence known.
One final player that may not yet be ready for big league action is Chris Shelton. Shelton was the Arizona Fall League MVP, but at times has looked like he's forcing too much, possibly trying to display the power that he believes is necessary to become an everyday first baseman. Shelton is at his best when he lets the ball come to him, and may need a half season of minor league ball to fully understand the concept and be more ready for big league ball.
One final player of note is a former stud trying to make one last comeback; Dean Palmer. After battling neck problems, Palmer is trying to make one last comeback. Palmer has certainly not looked bad, but he hasn't been smoking the ball either. And with already having starters at both corners, as well as an everyday DH, there likely won't be room for Palmer.
All in all, the Tigers offense is looking strong – in fact, should Ordonez as well as Carlos Guillen come back at 100% and hit as they're capable, the Tigers could possess one of the top five hitting ball clubs in the American League, possibly even in all of baseball.