Tigers begin again, with goal remaining the same

LAKELAND, Fla. - It was a sunny day with the temperature measuring 82 degrees, a far cry from the frigid World Series the Tigers lost last October.

That was just fine with the pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training Tuesday. It's a new year, with new players, new hopes -- but the same goal.

The Tigers trotted out onto the field at 10 a.m., as Jim Leyland addressed the group of players wearing their new white-and-blue caps.

"Skip is always preaching 'High expectations are good.' And we're excited to have them," Rick Porcello said.

The first bullpen session assignments were handed out. Justin Verlander would join Porcello, Duane Below, rookie Bruce Rondon, and a host of others, on the mound for a simulated game situation.

"Yes!" reliever Joaquin Benoit exclaimed, joking that he would get to sit out the first day's bullpen tossing.

Aside from that sly punch from Benoit, excitement was the most obvious flavor on every Tigers player's mind. The words "World Series" were said more in answers than any year in recent memory. That's not because of where they came from, it's where so many of the Tigers say they believe they can be at the end of the season.

"It's not like I'm out here pitching extra hard because I didn't win Game One of the World Series," Verlander said.

"Hopefully, if we get to that point again, we'll have a little extra drive and taste -- and we'll pull through."

Alex Avila said he isn't going to forget the World Series sweep, and plans on letting the thought of the loss drive his camp.

"If you forget the past, then you'll repeat it. I use it as motivation, a lot of us are focused to make sure we get back there," he said.

Position players filed in to camp early, led first by Victor Martinez, who missed all of last season and is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day. He took batting practice with Avila after working out with the pitchers and catchers.

Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry, and Don Kelly were just some of the other players in camp Tuesday. Prince Fielder was nearby, debuting the largest trading card ever made, as part of a promotion with Topps. His arrival in camp shouldn't be far away, either.

The consistency among pitchers Tuesday was to praise the lineup assembled in front of them. The common thought from position players? The Tigers pitching staff could be the best in baseball.

At the end of the day, looking excellent on paper is one thing. Putting the work in to turn paper into World Series gold? Well, that's the goal.

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli.

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