video thumbnail

Outlook: Sanchez looks to remain consistent

Whereas fans and players typically spend the offseason looking forward to Opening Day, Tigers manager Jim Leyland spends the winter months eagerly anticipating his team's second game of the year.

And with all the fanfare surrounding Detroit's season-opening 4-2 victory now in the past, the game Leyland has waited for -- Wednesday's 4:10 p.m. ET contest against the Twins -- is finally on deck.

"I will say this: I'm always glad when Opening Day is over, because you never really get into sync until after Opening Day," Leyland said. "There's so much hype going on, and there's so much stuff going on. Once you get past that, you get more into your routine on a consistent basis."

This year the routine will start with Anibal Sanchez taking the mound to square off against Twins newcomer Kevin Correia.

Sanchez ended up in the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind ace Justin Verlander despite a rocky end to his Spring Training. The right-hander tossed five scoreless innings in February before departing for the World Baseball Classic, but struggled after returning from his time with Team Venezuela.

In his first start back with the Tigers, Sanchez allowed four runs over six innings and was then tagged for nine runs on 11 hits in just five innings in his final spring outing, last Thursday.

While Sanchez will be looking to regain his form on Wednesday, Correia will be looking to prove himself with the Twins after spending his first 10 big league seasons in the National League. The righty signed with the Twins this offseason after spending the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, where he went 12-11 each year, with a 4.79 ERA in 2011 and a 4.21 mark last season.

The Twins are hoping that Correia's consistency -- double-digit wins and 26-plus starts in each of the last four seasons -- will help provide some stability to their revamped rotation.

"Our starters are going to have to eat up innings and get us deeper into the games," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have to protect our bullpen. You can't end up using them four or five innings a game. So our starters definitely have to get us deeper into the games, and we have to stay healthy."

Though easier said than done, the health aspect will certainly be a focal point for a Twins team that was ravaged by injuries a season ago en route to a 66-96 record and last-place finish in the American League Central.

"I think from the first day of Spring Training, our focus has been about moving forward, not looking backward," said veteran first baseman Justin Morneau. "No matter how much success we've had or struggles in the last couple of seasons, it doesn't matter once we get out there. It's something fresh."

Tigers: Leyland hopes team capitalizes on off-day

Not that Leyland wants his club to start looking ahead to Friday's home opener, against the Yankees, but he does hope his team uses Tuesday's off-day to take care of some odds and ends regarding the weekend series.

With the team not allowed to hold a workout anyway, Leyland is hoping his club makes the most of the early rest following its season-opening victory.

"I think it's a good day if you use common sense," he said. "It's a good day to kind of relax. It's a good day to maybe get some things touched up before the home opener, make sure you have your ticket requests and your family's there and reservations and all that stuff. I think it's a good day to kind of clean up on that stuff so you have a little less to do."

Twins: Morneau hoping for another healthy season

Morneau would love to return to the 30-homer, 100-RBI form that earned him AL MVP honors in 2006 and four consecutive All-Star appearances from 2007 to 2010.

Now in his 11th season with the Twins, the 31-year-old would gladly settle for just being healthy and contributing to a postseason run.

"The only thing that matters to me is being in the race in September," he said. "If I'm healthy, I think I can help us have a lot better chance of making the playoffs or being in that playoff run, battling for those spots, either the division or those Wild Card spots, whatever they are. Anything's possible. I'm still young enough."

In 2012, his first mostly healthy season in three years, Morneau hit .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 134 games. He had played just 150 games in the previous two seasons combined.

"I think I proved to myself last year that when I'm healthy, I feel can contribute," he said. "And whatever that means, I'm not sure, but hopefully it's somewhere around where I'm playing 150, 160 games and driving in runs and helping us score runs and helping us win ballgames."

Worth noting

• Correia has pitched well against Prince Fielder, limiting the Tigers slugger to a .200 lifetime average. The lefty hasn't had as much success against the other top Tigers slugger, as Cabrera is hitting .474 with two doubles and a homer against him.

• The Tigers are 25-12 against the Twins since the start of the 2011 season, including 15-4 in Minnesota.
 

MLB.com Comments