January 25th, 2012
Justin Verlander told his followers on Twitter he was playing a bad round of golf when he got the call on Prince Fielder. His game didn’t get much better, but his day did.
“The Prince news turned my day around! Still played bad, but who cares,” Verlander tweeted. “Really excited about 2012, especially with the new addition.”
He wasn’t the only Tiger looking at the 2012 season with a little brighter outlook, once the sense of shock over Fielder’s signing tapered off.
“I had just got done working out, hitting, and a few of my friends texted me,” superutilityman Don Kelly said. “I seriously thought they were joking. I got online and checked it out and it was all over MLB.com and whatever.”
Austin Jackson, who’s now set to be leading off for a more formidable Tigers lineup, had the same reaction when his phone started going off while he was sitting at home. Shock gave way to mere amazement, then gave way to the thought of a lineup with two of the most formidable all-around hitters in baseball.
“It’s crazy to think about him and Cabrera hitting next to each other in the lineup,” Jackson said. ‘You do those type of things on MLB2K or something. You never really see two hitters like that get a chance to hit on the same team.
“It’s going to be a very interesting season. I think everybody’s pumped up to get going.”
The news that the Tigers had signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract sent shock waves around baseball, but it sent excitement around Detroit. Tigers players were no different. Some likely realized it was a possibility, but most didn’t know at all.
“No,” Kelly said. “I mean, everybody was under the impression that it wasn’t a real good fit from what Prince was looking for and what the Tigers were looking to do. But obviously, it ended up [working out].”
Jackson compared it to a holiday gift.
“To be honest with you, I thought it was a long shot,” he said. “I think myself and a lot of other people were probably putting it on a wish list. You think about things like that. You think about what a guy like him could contribute to this team, but you always think those things are long shots. When it actually happened, it was like, ‘All right, I can see this team is really serious about moving in the right direction.”
Miguel Cabrera, the man Fielder is expected to move out from first base, had an idea it was a possibility. He told Venezuelan reporter Marfa Mata that the Tigers had approached him during last week’s winter caravan to let him know it was a possibility and to see how he felt about it, including the possibility of changing positions.
Not only was Cabrera on board, he was excited.
“Some people forget that this is my [old] position, third base,” Mata quotes Cabrera, translated through Google. “I want a better team.”
So do most of the Tigers, even those whose roles might be impacted. Kelly was looking at a potential platoon role at third base going into the season, the kind of set role he hasn’t had in the big leagues. If Cabrera moves to third, there’s a good chance that changes.
That wasn’t among Kelly’s chief concerns Tuesday night.
“Looking at it, when you have a team and you can add a guy like Prince Fielder to that team, your team’s obviously going to be better,” he said.
Even Tigers who haven’t made it to Detroit yet were looking forward to the possibility. Top pitching prospect Jacob Turner was heading into the season looking to compete for the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation. His run support picture now looks much different. He retweeted the news almost as soon as it hit Twitter.
Fellow Tigers pitching prospect Drew Smyly, who’s expected to compete for the same rotation spot, learned about his new teammate soon afterwards.
“That’s one hell of an offense,” he tweeted.