It’s a little early for this sort of thing, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked the question and gave the obvious answer Tuesday at spring training in Lakeland, Florida.
Justin Verlander will take the mound for the Tigers on Opening Day, April 5 against the Marlins. Ausmus only qualified his selection of Verlander with a “barring something unforeseen.”
Verlander got off to a late start in 2015, but he registered a cool 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP across 133 1/3 innings after debuting in mid-June. It was the first time since 2006 that the veteran right-hander had not reached the 200-inning plateau.
Verlander, 33 next week, is owed $28 million per year over the next four years.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.