Expectations low as Blue Jays, Tigers clash

Field Level Media

When the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays play each other these days, it is easy to long for what used to be.

The Tigers and the Blue Jays had one of the better rivalries in baseball in the 1980s when they battled it out in the American League East.

The Blue Jays are still in the East while the Tigers have long been in the AL Central. They don't see each other as much as they used to.

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When the Tigers visit the Blue Jays on Thursday for Opening Day, neither team can be expected to do much this season to erase the fond memories of the past.

The Tigers were 64-98 last season and the Blue Jays were 73-89.

Jordan Zimmermann will pitch the opener for the Tigers and fellow right-hander Marcus Stroman will start for the Blue Jays.

Zimmermann added a curveball and changeup to his repertoire after having core muscle surgery following last season. He was 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA in 25 starts last season.

"This is pretty much where I expected to be if I had a healthy spring," said Zimmermann, who also pitched the opener last season. "The body feels real good going into the regular season. I am ready, ready to go play some meaningful games."

Zimmermann is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA in four career starts against Toronto. He won his only start against the Blue Jays last season, allowing five hits, one run, no walks and striking out six in seven innings.

Miguel Cabrera has shown in spring training that he can still be a force for Detroit as he approaches his 36th birthday with four impressive home runs this spring. His season was curtailed last year because of a biceps injury.

"He's feeling really good, starting to see it really good," Gardenhire said. "That tells you where he's at."

Said Cabrera: "I feel good. I feel healthy. And I want to feel that in the season."

Stroman, who was hampered by shoulder and blister issues last season, will be the Opening Day starter for the second time in his career.

"I think it just feeds into my personality, and who I am as a person," Stroman said. "The greater the stage, the bigger the lights, the more I feel I'm really able to lock it in. Something I feel I've always had since I was a young age."

Stroman, who was the 2016 Opening Day starter, said his shoulder "feels great."

"I haven't felt like this since 2017," he said. "Last year was a battle, so just to be able to go out there knowing that I have my entire arsenal and repertoire in the tank, it's going to be a fun year."

Stroman was 4-9 with a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts last season and 13-9, 3.09 in 33 starts in 2017.

The Blue Jays are in admitted rebuilding process. They have not made the postseason since 2016 when they reached the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.

Part of the rebuilding involves going with a rookie catcher in Danny Jansen after Russell Martin was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Luke Maile returns as the other catcher.

Stroman likes what he has seen from Jansen.

"He's had a great mix with me so far," Stroman said. "I'm a guy that wants to get to all six of my pitches, so I told him we have to get in sync and get our repertoire going, but like I said, he wants to learn and go into games with a great game plan."

Stroman is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers. He won his only start last season when he allowed four hits, two runs (one earned), no walks and struck out four in seven innings.

--Field Level Media

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