KANSAS CITY, Mo. – My first “day in the life” as a Major League Baseball writer started like this.
Walking into Kauffman Stadium to get my media credentials with Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera following behind me.
Passing slick fielding Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar in the parking lot.
Staking out my spot in the press box while watching Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas take extra early batting practice (yes, Kansas City fans, the youngsters are hard at work) with Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur chatting outside the cage with Justin Verlander.
But then came the real a-ha moment: Sitting in on legendary manager Jim Leyland’s pre-game press conference with a flock of Detroit broadcast and print journalists.
Here are the best tidbits from the hazy, Marlboro Red-tinged 30-minute chat session:
–This series features great pitching from both sides though Detroit likely has an edge. Tonight, Doug Fister (5-3, 3.27 ERA) opposes Royals’ right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (6-3 3.66). Tomorrow’s probables are Max Scherzer (8-0, 3.24) and Wade Davis (3-5, 5.66). The 1:10 p.m. series finale on Wednesday, though, will be the best—Verlander (8-4, 3.71), a five-time All-Star and 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner, takes on KC ace James Shields (2-6, 2.81).
That fuels optimism for both sides.
“I think we’re a lot like Kansas City,” Leyland said. “They feel good about their starting pitching. I feel, obviously, very good about ours. It’s pretty good.”
–Detroit’s bullpen was another hot-button topic. Guys like Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal, who were on the Tigers’ AL champion squad last fall, have been sent down to iron out kinks and Leyland wants them back firing not just good, but great pitches.
“To the average person that’s reading about (it), for them a strike is a strike and a ball is a ball,” Leyland said. “Up here, a quality strike is real darn important.”
-The AL Central leaders are the pride of Detroit, and the numbers back it up. The Tigers have brought in more than 1.1 million fans in 32 home games for an average of 36,103 per contest at Comerica Park. Over the weekend, against second-place Cleveland, they drew above-average crowds of 39,008, 41,691 and 41,262.
The packed house caught Leyland’s attention.
“If you get a lull – which you don’t get many as a manager – but once in a while between innings or something you go down and get a drink … walking around the dugout and look up, it’s mind-boggling,” Leyland said.
–The closing talk hinged on Detroit’s classic uniforms (which, if you haven’t noticed, have extra belt loops). Leyland prefers the clean, classic look and puts his team’s home white jerseys among the best in baseball.
“The plainer the better. Our home uniform is about as good as it gets.”
Back in batting practice land, Butler just deposited a ball about 400 feet from home plate in left center.
Stay tuned for a feature on the former Haven High, Hutchinson Community College and Wichita State star in Wednesday’s print edition, and keep coming to the Fahrer Side and checking our Twitter account (@hutchsports) for news and notes on this series.
-Lucas Fahrer, Fahrer Side