DETROIT (AP) — Brad Ausmus expects to approach his managerial debut with the same relaxed attitude he showed throughout spring training.
"I'm assuming it will be similar to opening day, the first time I played an opening day," Ausmus said. "Having been to Detroit, I know there will be a ton of energy in the stadium, having played opening day there before. I'm sure I'll be excited about it, but you wouldn't know it if you saw me."
Ausmus and the Tigers begin their pursuit of a fourth straight AL Central title Monday against the Kansas City Royals. Justin Verlander will make his seventh consecutive opening day start, and Detroit will try to move on from a difficult spring training in which three significant players went down with major injuries.
Kansas City will send right-hander James Shields to the mound. The Royals are coming off an 86-win season — the first time they'd finished above .500 in a decade. They'll need to take another step forward to displace Detroit atop the division, but what better way to start than with a three-game series in Motown?
"We like playing the Tigers. Every time they come into town, or we go there, it's a different energy when we play them, and it has to be," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "They're the ones we have to set out to get. That's who we have to go through to win the division. We welcome the challenge."
Ausmus took over as Detroit's manager after Jim Leyland stepped down at the end of last season, but the Tigers bring their same trio of stars back for 2014. Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer have combined to win three MVPs and two Cy Young Awards in the last three seasons. Detroit recently signed Cabrera to a $292 million, 10-year deal — but that was one of precious few feel-good moments for the team over the last few weeks.
Outfielder Andy Dirks, shortstop Jose Iglesias and reliever Bruce Rondon have all gone down with major injuries. Dirks is likely to miss at least the first two months of the season, and Iglesias is expected to be out even longer. Rondon will not return this year.