Tigers owner Mike Ilitch dies at 87

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Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business reports that Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch died at Harper University Hospital on Friday afternoon. He was 87 years old.

Ilitch got his start with the Tigers in 1952 as an infielder for the affiliated Jamestown Falcons of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He worked his way up to Single-A Charlotte, then-affiliates of the Washington Senators, before an untimely knee injury forced him to abandon his minor league career for a more lucrative path.

While he’s perhaps best known for founding Little Caesars Pizza in 1959, Ilitch enjoyed great success in the MLB and NHL circuits after acquiring the Detroit Red Wings in 1982 and the Tigers in 1992. He was responsible for moving the Tigers from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park in 2000 and saw the club through five postseason runs, albeit none that ended with championship titles. His venture with the Red Wings reaped even bigger rewards, as the team clinched four Stanley Cups from 1996 through 2007 and sustained a 25-year playoff streak.

His son, Christopher Ilitch, issued a statement following his father’s death:

My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family. […] He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends. Together my family and the company celebrate the tremendous man he was, and we will continue to work hard to uphold his remarkable legacy. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with him to nurture and grow our businesses, but mostly, I’m grateful to have called him my Dad.

Our thoughts go out to the Ilitch family and the Tigers’ organization during this time.

 

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.