Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on March 28, 1997 · Page 71
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 71

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Friday, March 28, 1997
Page 71
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FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 1997DETROIT FREE PRESS 11H Tigers' starting rotation lining up this way for '00 IK ' ' " ' W ' --"T-- .Jfc A " At 2 1 , Juan Encarnacion is catching 2000, because the organization has to be rebuilt from the bottom up. , "I remember my second day in spring training after coming to the Tigers," assistant general manager Steve Lubratich said. "I picked up a baseball publication that listed the Tigers' talent as 28th (out of 28 teams) in the major leagues and 28th in the minor leagues." How accurate was that assessment? "Unfortunately, it was real close," Lubratich said. There wasn't much talent in the major leagues but it was a little better in the lower levels of the minors." Lubratich knew what his first step would be on the long road back to respectability: hire Steve Boros, widely respected for his ability to shape young players. Boros was appointed minor league field coordinator. Outfielder BubbaTrammell, 25, torched Double-A and Triple-A for a combined 33 homers and 99 RBIs in 134 games last year. A I management's attention in the outfield. "I wanted someone in our farm system who could teach someone who could get the most out of our players and there's no one better at that than Steve," Lubratich said. . Lubratich identified one major problem in the Tigers' organization almost immediately: A gap had grown between the major and minor league operations; the farm system had become the poor stepchild. - "Last year we started to build a little pride in the minor leagues," Lubratich said. "There's a lot of history in the Tiger uniform. We wanted the players to be proud to wear it. "We wanted them to play with pride, to work a little harder at being as good as they could be." The new regime wants to mold players in the minors who know how to play the game right by the time they get to the majors. . "You watch all the teams in the Dodgers organization, and you can see the outfielders throw the same way and the infielders prepare to field the ball the same way," Lubratich said. "We don't want to clone players, but we want everything to be uniform." That's why the Tigers put out The Tiger Way," a manual that instructs minor league managers how to drill players in the proper way to play the game. "We also have a roving instructor in the minors for each defensive position," Lubratich said. "We don't want to have teams in the future like last year's club that was so poor defensively that it was giving up 31 to 32 outs a game. You can't win consistently like that" After years of not scouting talent outside the United States, the Tigers recenUy have started actively pursuing players from such baseball hotbeds as the Dominican '96 LEADERS Team Record: 53-109 Position: Last in AL East Games back: 39 Batting leaders Average: Bobby Higginson, .320 Homers: Tony Clark, 27 , RBIs: Travis Fryman, 100 Pitching leaders .' Won-lost: Omar Olivares, 7-11 ;.. ERA: Joey Eischen, 3.24 u Saves: Gregg Olson, 8. ' Attendance Home: 1,168,610 Home average: 14,427 Republic. Four youngsters from the Dominican none older than 21 have a legitimate shot to be with the Tigers in 2000: pitcher Willis Roberts, infielders Richard Alman-zar and Luis Garcia, and outfielder Juan Encarnacion. The idea is to stockpile young talent, so that if we want to trade a major league player to fill a hole somewhere else, we have a ready replacement in the minors," Lubratich said. "It's going to take time to get to the point we want to be. But what we want to build is an organization like the Dodgers, or the Cardinals of the 1980s, where you might have a down year now and then, but overall you consistently win baseball games." BY Gene Guidi Free Press Sports Writer Tigers general manager Randy Smith took the piece of paper handed him by a reporter and examined the names of five pitchers projected as the team's starting rotation in 2000. Smith smiled and reached in the top drawer of his desk for a folder that contained his projections of the Ti-. gers' rosters for each Of the next four seasons. "You know, that's pretty close to what I have," Smith said. "In fact, those are the same five names I have." The five names: Seth Greisinger. Justin Thompson. Willis Roberts. Mike Drumright Matt Drews. . "And right behind those five you can put Dave Borkowski," Smith said. Smith was quick r , , wini mi( to,,-. -.,.,- - Justin Thompson to point out that 2000 is light years away in baseball terms, and a lot can change in that time. "If we take a starting pitcher with our first pick in this year's draft, you might expect that he'd be in the rotation," Smith said. "And you never know someone like Willis Roberts might turn out to be better suited as a closer. And then there are always injuries, or maybe we'll sign a free agent" But knowing what he knows now, Smith thinks these five young pitchers have the potential to come together as a potent start- , ing staff in 2000: Greisinger His major league ETA originally was set for 1999, but after he handled t Making waves V - v ,t isGM Randy Smith, checking on 4 V his pitching, i- X V t : big-league hitters with ease in spring training, he's expected to join the Tigers no later than next season. Thompson: It seems that the only thing that can stop him from being a consistent winner is injury. The lefthander paid some dues during a 1-6 season in 1996; this is supposed to be the year he takes a regular turn in the rotation. The Tigers would like to get 30 to 40 starts a year from him. Roberts: Big, hard-throwing righthander is still a work in progress, as evidenced by the rough time he had in a couple of spring games. But the non-drafted free agent ljas come a long way and at 21 seems to have a bright future. Two more seasons in the minors should be all he needs. Drumright: Was considered the Tigers' top pitching prospect until Grei singer came along. Like Roberts, this 22-year-old righthander had some problems with his mechanics and was roughed up this spring; he obviously needs some experience to complement his talent. Look for him in Detroit in 1999. Drews: The Yankees' top pick in the 1993 draft, this 6-foot-8 righthander hit a big bump in the road after 15 minor league victories in 1995. In minor league -intrasquad games, he has been inconsistent, but can be overpowering with his best pitches. At 22, he needs to settle in one place and pitch every fifth day after making four minor league stops last season. Should be with the Tigers by 2000. 1 . t 4 'I n i '

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