Tigers hope Price is right versus Twins

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Tigers have won the last four American League Central titles, but they enter the 2015 campaign with a lot of question marks, despite a roster chock full of big names.

They'll kick off their season on Monday against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park.

The Tigers closed the 2014 campaign with three former Cy Young Award winners in their rotation, but Max Scherzer opted to leave as a free agent, leaving behind Justin Verlander and David Price, who himself can become a free agent at season's end, but will start on Monday.

Verlander, who had started the Tigers' previous seven openers, will open the year on the DL with a triceps injury. He could be eligible to pitch April 12 in Cleveland.

Even before Verlander's injury it had been decided that Price, who has made three previous Opening Day starts, including the past two with the Tampa Bay Rays would get this assignment. The 29-year-old lefty finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2014, posting a 3.26 ERA with a major league-leading 271 strikeouts in a major-league leading 248 1/3 innings.

"I'm honored and it's definitely a blessing to be out there to throw that Opening Day," Price said. "And for it to be home in Comerica Park, I think that will be pretty special."

However, you can't talk about the Tigers and not mention two-time former AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, who failed to top a .900 OPS last season for the first time since 2008 and underwent offseason surgeries on his foot and ankle. At 31, the injuries seem to be a little more prevalent.

Cabrera will be aided by the fact that designated hitter Victor Martinez, who is coming off a career year that netted him a $68 million deal to stay in Detroit, will begin the season on the active roster after he tore his meniscus in an offseason workout.

Also providing Cabrera some protection will be new slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired from Boston for righty Rick Porcello.

A big reason why the Tigers have not won a World Series with this current group is their bullpen. Once again that figures to be the team's Achilles' heel. Joe Nathan will open the year as the team's closer, but the Tigers have Joakim Soria and hard-throwing Bruce Rondon waiting in the wings.

Minnesota, meanwhile, continued to be the doormat of the division, but heads into this season with renewed optimism thanks to new manager Paul Molitor, the return of an old star and a batch of young talent ready to start making an impact.

Actually, the Twins should have a pretty decent offense after scoring the fifth-most runs in the league last season. With a nucleus of Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana, as well as the returning Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano, those numbers should improve.

And let's not forget the Twins have one of the best young outfield prospects in baseball in Byron Buxton, who will probably start the year in Double-A, but provided he stays healthy, could be in the Twins lineup by Memorial Day.

So, who better to have around with all that young talent than 39-year-old Torii Hunter, who returns to Minnesota, the team that drafted him 21 years ago. There might not be much left in the tank, but there are few better professionals than Hunter.

The Twins also added righty Ervin Santana to help a starting staff that last year was led by Phil Hughes, who will make his first Opening Day start on Monday. However, Santana was suspended 80 games on Friday for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Hughes, who inked a new five-year extension this offseason that will keep in Minny through 2019, went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts last season, his first with the Twins. He set a major league record with an 11.63 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Hughes will be Minnesota's fourth Opening Day starter in the last four years.