While the end result wasn’t exactly what the Tigers fans would’ve have wanted, there was plenty to like about game 1 of the 2007 season. Jeremy Bonderman struggled in the first inning, but settled down and was locked in with five goose eggs. And while he did allow three runs in that first inning, he wasn’t really roughed instead the Jays nickel-and-dimed him. They even went strongly against their general philosophy in the first inning with two stolen bases. A blooper that fell in between Craig Monroe and Carlos Guillen led to the third run.
Even more impressive than Bonderman getting back on track, was the fact that the offense didn’t allow the three-run first to be the end of it despite facing Roy Halladay. The team as a whole looked markedly more patient this game than they did at any point during 2006. Curtis Granderson did strikeout once, but looked very solid at the plate going 2-for-5. Placido Polanco picked up where he left off in the playoffs going 3-for-5 with a run batted in. Gary Sheffield was 0-for-3 in his Detroit debut, but did notch two sacrifice flies that helped the Tigers draw even at 3 before heading to extra innings.
Fernando Rodney looked very similar to his two appearances that I saw in Lakeland. The non-roster invitees he was facing late in those games didn’t make him pay nearly as much for his mistakes as the Blue Jays did yesterday. He stuff wasn’t necessarily off, but he couldn’t close hitters out despite getting ahead. Billfer notes that during a part of last year, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez was trying to Rodney to rely less on the changeup and look more to the fastball. After an at-bat with Troy Glaus where he threw three straight changeups and eventually lost Glaus to an RBI-single, maybe that should once again be a focus for Hernandez and Rodney.
Overall, the team looked solid and battled back against one of the AL’s finest. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disappointed with the loss, but it is just one game and it could’ve been much worse considering that first inning. Wednesday afternoon brings another quality matchup with A.J. Burnett toeing the rubber for Toronto against Mr. Gum, Nate Robertson. In his final spring start, Thursday’s starter Justin Verlander was filthy and he’ll get the nod against Toronto’s Gustavo Chacin.