Scherzer makes season debut versus Royals

( - Detroit's Max Scherzer can become a free agent at the end of the season.

The American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner gets a chance to start proving his worth on Wednesday when the Tigers continue a season-opening three-game series against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.

Scherzer, who turned down a reported $140 million extension from the Tigers earlier in the spring, enjoyed the best year of his career in 2013, as he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 32 starts.

The 29-year-old right-hander has been a double-digit winner in each of his four seasons with Detroit and could be the most sought after pitcher available next winter.

Scherzer has also had success of late against the Royals. After splitting his first eight decisions against them over his first three seasons, he's 5-0 with a 2.86 ERA against them over the past two years.

"They have such a history of you, and you have a history against them, it's the ultimate game of paper/scissors/rock," Scherzer said.

Kansas City, meanwhile, will hand the ball to lefty Jason Vargas, who agreed to a 4-year, $32 million deal this winter.

Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 earned run average in 24 starts for the Angels last season. He missed almost two months in his lone campaign with Los Angeles after having surgery to remove a blood clot in his left armpit.

Detroit pulled out a thrilling win in Monday's opener, as Alex Gonzalez tied the game with an RBI triple in the seventh and then won it with a run-scoring single in the ninth, propelling the Tigers to a 4-3 win.

Joe Nathan (1-0), who signed with the Tigers as a free agent in the offseason, spun a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to pick up the victory. Justin Verlander made his seventh straight Opening Day start for Detroit and surrendered three runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks over six frames.

Victor Martinez stroked a solo home run for the defending AL Central champion Tigers, who made a winner out of Brad Ausmus in his managerial debut.

"It's always exciting on Opening Day but certainly my first win as a manager will be something I don't forget," Ausmus said. "I'm also not the type of person to get wrapped too much up into it. We have 161 games to go and we still have one goal and that's six months away hopefully."

Salvador Perez went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Royals, who finished the 2013 season with their highest win total (86) since 1989, despite missing the playoffs for the 28th straight season.

The Tigers lost the season series to the Royals last year, 10-9.