The signings of Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers apparently accomplished the Tigers' goal of solidifying the pitching staff with a pair of veterans. Rogers likely will find himself atop the Tigers rotation, with either him or Jeremy Bonderman claiming the role of ace.
Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson will also likely return to the group, leaving four of the five spots set. The fifth and final spot will be left up to competition, between Justin Verlander, Roman Colon, and possibly Joel Zumaya as well.
Jones meanwhile will anchor a bullpen that went through four different closers in 2005, as the Tigers hope to stabilize the group with a pitcher that has averaged more than 70 appearances each of the last five years.
Fernando Rodney, who finished up '05 as the closer will likely move into the setup role, joining Jamie Walker in that role. After those three, the Tigers will likely rely on a contingent of youngsters, including Franklyn German and Chris Spurling to provide middle relief. Wilfredo Ledezma, Mark Woodyard, and Colon (if he doesn't win a starting spot) among others will compete for the final one or two spots in the ‘pen.
As for the lineup, the Tigers are likely headed to spring training without a single serious competition brewing for a roster spot.
With a breakout second season, Chris Shelton has likely grabbed the job as the team's everyday first baseman. Placido Polanco's extension grants him the job as the team's second baseman, and Carlos Guillen hopes to return healthy at shortstop. While Brandon Inge didn't overwhelm anyone in the second half of the year, the team will likely use him once again at the hot corner. They'll also bring back Omar Infante in a reserve role, though he could very well see plenty of playing time himself considering the injury history of Guillen, and the uncertainty of the production from Inge.
Things are just as settled elsewhere on the diamond, where the Tigers two stars; Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, will look to put their disappointing 2005 seasons and look for an '06 resurgence. Dmitri Young will also hope to have a better season in 2006, as he enters what will likely be a contract year. Young has already reportedly dedicated himself to dropping 20-30 pounds in hopes of not only being a better presence at the plate, but also possibly contributing in the field as well.
Curtis Granderson (center) and Craig Monroe (left) round out the Tigers lineup. So, barring injury, the Tigers nine position players can already be predicted, a promising sight for the Tigers who have so often come into years hoping for youngsters or a competition to produce a respectable major league starter.
Adding Vance Wilson and Nook Logan to the equation, that leaves the Tigers with 21 of the 25 spots already locked in, barring any unforeseen trades. If Verlander wins the starting job as hoped, that brings it down to three spots; another reliever, a backup outfielder and an infielder likely.
For the first time in many years, the Tigers can feel confident about the players they have going into the start of the year. The problem remains; is the group good enough to change the Tigers streak of twelve losing seasons in a row?