The calendar may say that it is winter for a few more weeks, but Spring Training begins Sunday for the Detroit Tigers and the rest of Major League Baseball as pitchers and catchers report for workouts. The rest of the team will start official workouts in about a week, although many are already working out on their own. The Tigers are expected to contend for not only the American League Central title, but for a World Championship.

The Tigers have some great players on their roster, including American League MVP and Cy Young award winning pitcher Justin Verlander, A.L. Batting Champion Miguel Cabrera and newly acquired free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. With the loss of DH Victor Martinez to a knee injury, the Tigers will still wield some heavy lumber with Cabrera and Fielder back to back. Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila all had good seasons at the plate in 2011, and are being counted on again this season. Question marks remain with leadoff hitter Austin Jackson and the 2nd base platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. If these spots in the lineup can be productive, the big mashers should get plenty of runs to drive in.

Defensively, Miguel Cabrera is moving back to third base to make room for Prince Fielder at first base. Cabrera played third earlier in his career and has a decent glove for a big guy. Reports have Cabrera down 20 pounds or more from last season's weight, which should give him a bit more mobility. He still has the size and strength to hit the baseball clear to Windsor from Comerica Park in Detroit. If the move to third for Miguel doesn't work out, he may have to get used to being a DH.

The Tiger pitching staff looks to be pretty darn good again. Verlander was scary good last year, and it may be hard for him to match last season's win total (24). The Tigers struggled a bit before the All-Star break last year, but Verlander put an end to many Detroit losing streaks before they got out of hand. Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister are all expected to win a lot of games this season. It's not unreasonable to predict that the Tigers could have more than one 20-game winner in 2012.
The bullpen looks pretty solid with closer Jose Valverde, setup man Joquin Benoit, and lefty Phil Coke. Octavio Dotel adds some veteran depth to the pen, and will be used to get out tough right-handed hitters or to eat up some innings in games that get away. Right-handed reliever Colin Balester comes to the Tigers from the Washington Nationals in a trade for Ryan Perry. Any help he can give the team is a bonus.

The Tigers made it to the American League Championship Series last year before falling to Texas. The expectations are higher this year for the Motor City Kitties. If everybody stays healthy and performs at a reasonable level, the Tigers should be really fun to watch. It's Spring Training time and hope springs eternal for every team. These Tigers could be special this year. I know I'll be watching every game.