Though intended to be a celebration of sorts, the American League champions' flag-raising ceremony prior to Friday's home opener at Comerica Park will likely serve as a reminder of what could have been for the Tigers.
The ceremony kicks off Detroit's home-opening weekend against the Yankees, but the focus for the Tigers -- who were swept in last year's World Series -- is already on making sure there's a different kind of banner being raised at this time next year.
Nonetheless, after dropping two of three in Minnesota to start the season, the Tigers are eager to play in front of the home crowd for the first time this season -- or ever, in the case of newcomer Torii Hunter.
"It's going to be crazy, electrifying, and it's going to be a lot fun," said Hunter, who signed with the Tigers after spending last year with the Angels. "These guys are just going off winning the ALCS, getting to the World Series, and the support system's going to be crazy, bigger than I've probably ever been a part of. Because I've never been on a team that's been to the World Series and won the ALCS. This will really be my first time experiencing this."
The Tigers, after getting pummeled in Thursday's series finale against the Twins, will look to rebound when they send Doug Fister to the mound in Friday's series opener to square off against Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova.
Nova, coming off a disastrous second-half last season, had his share of struggles in Spring Training.
After starting last season 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA before the All-Star break, Nova went 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA in 11 starts the rest of the way. He turned in a 4.19 ERA in five Grapefruit League starts this spring, but that doesn't include his final spring outing in which he was tagged for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, including two homers, against the Blue Jays' Class A Dunedin lineup.
"He had a pretty good spring. I thought he had better command of his fastball, which is important," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his curveball was really good in Spring Training. For him, it's consistency. If he's consistent, and he's consistently down on the outer thirds, he's going to be pretty good."
Nova finds himself in the rotation in part because of the injury to Phil Hughes. Both Nova and David Phelps broke camp as starters with Hughes on the disabled list alongside shortstop Derek Jeter, center fielder Curtis Granderson, first baseman Mark Teixeira and third baseman Alex Rodriguez, among others.
So while the defending AL champion Tigers take the field Friday not only with most of last year's lineup intact, but the additions of Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez, the Yankees will be continuing to search for chemistry with their makeshift lineup.
"You never want to lose games," said outfielder Vernon Wells, acquired on March 26 to help compensate for the injuries. "Obviously they're going to come, but we haven't played good enough baseball to win. That's the bottom line. We haven't clicked in all three phases of the game. It's just a matter of time before we do. It'd be nice for it to happen sooner than later."
Yankees: Kuroda receiving treatment for finger
While Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda has some discomfort in his bruised middle finger after being struck by a line drive in Wednesday's game against the Red Sox, he still hopes to make his next start.
Kuroda has been receiving ice, tape and laser treatment since the injury, with an X-ray and CT scan showing no fracture or other damage.
"The bottom line is, I'm going to try to make my next start," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "I'd have to say I don't feel normal. I feel a little discomfort there. It's a batted ball that hit my hand in my fingers, so that's natural, I think."
• Outfielder Brennan Boesch will return to Detroit as a member of the Yankees less than a month after he was released by the Tigers.
Boesch, who spent his first three big league seasons with Detroit, was signed by the Yankees two days after his March 13 release. A third-round pick in 2006, Boesch hit .259 with 42 homers and 175 RBIs while playing in 380 games over his three seasons with the Tigers.
Entering New York's series finale Thursday night against the Red Sox, Boesch had made just one appearance in the first two games, striking out Wednesday as a pinch-hitter.
Tigers: Valverde signed to Minor League contract
After extensive debate throughout the offseason and Spring Training about the Tigers' closer situation, it took only two games into the regular season for Detroit to offer former closer Jose Valverde a Minor League contract.
Valverde, who recorded 110 saves in three seasons with the Tigers, will report to Lakeland, Fla. where he will throw to hitters in extended Spring Training before joining Triple-A Toledo. There is an opt-clause in the deal if Valverde isn't in the Majors by May 5.
Detroit chose not to re-sign Valverde after he lost his closing job with a disastrous postseason, electing to give rookie Bruce Rondon a chance to compete with other relievers for the role. Rondon was instead optioned to Triple-A last week and, on Wednesday, the Twins rallied past the Tigers with two ninth-inning runs off Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke.
"We're not looking to prolong this," general manager Dave Dombrowski said of Valverde's comeback attempt. "It's a situation where he can either pitch and come back and help us here, or we probably end that relationship at that time."
• Detroit legend Willie Horton, who helped lead the Tigers to the 1968 World Series title, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Horton's teammate on that club -- and current Tigers radio broadcaster, Jim Price -- will be on the receiving end of that pitch.
• Boesch is 7-for-12 (.583) with a homer and three RBIs in his career against Fister, with whom he was teammates in Detroit from 2011-12.