Tigers have new look going into 2015 season, but still expect to contend



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DETROIT — Despite making plenty of changes in the offseason, the Detroit Tigers still expect to be a contending team in 2015.

Team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski spoke at the team's annual TigerFest event at Comerica Park and addressed those issues.

"Our expectations are to win the division and try to win a world championship," Dombrowski said. "It's just a less-certain club."

Dombrowski said fans are not sure if shortstop Jose Iglesias and reliever Bruce Rondon can come back from missing time with injuries, if Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez can bounce back and what to expect from new pitchers Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene, plus new outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose.

Dombrowski said the front office is not concerned about it.

"They're not really question marks to us," Dombrowski said. "I really like our club. I think we have a chance to be very good."

One of the reasons for the uncertainty is losing players such Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, mainstays in the rotation the past several years.

Dombrowski said after the team's initial offer of six years, $144 million last spring, the Tigers maintained contact with Scherzer's agent, Scott Boras, but there were no further negotiations.

"We thought we had made a strong effort to try to sign him and it was clear he was looking for the numbers he received now, maybe even a little bit more," Dombrowski said.

"When we acquired David Price, we were also thinking we're not going to have Max, most likely, next year, so David Price steps in as your No. 1 starter."

Another concern fans have is the health of slugger Miguel Cabrera, who underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ankle and to repair the navicular bone on the top of his ankle.

Dombrowski said the doctor cleared Cabrera to remove his walking boot and he's been doing upper-body work.

Cabrera will visit the specialist on Feb. 15.

"So we're hopeful at that point he gets turned loose," Dombrowski said. "If he's not ready for Opening Day, it's going to be very, very close. We have Victor Martinez, who can play first base at that point. Alex Avila could play over there for a little bit."

Although Cabrera turns 32 in April, Dombrowski isn't buying that he's on a downward trajectory in his career.

"I couldn't disagree more," Dombrowski said. "It's amazing he could play last year with what he had. The doctor can't even believe that he could go out there. And he was player of the month in September in a pennant race. I wouldn't be shocked if he put up those huge numbers that he has in the past."

Dombrowski also expects Iglesias, who was cleared last week for full activity, to be healthy after missing last season with stress fractures in both shins.

"Last night we had our sponsor's party, they have a little dessert and some music and I saw him in the back dancing by himself," Dombrowski said. "If he can dance like that, he's fine. I'm not worried about him whatsoever."

Dombrowski said a player of Iglesias' caliber can have a big impact on the team.

"This guy's a Gold Glove-type performer," Dombrowski said. "You're not planning on losing a young guy like that for a whole season. They're tough to replace. So I'm excited that he's going to be back and look forward to him being ready. He makes a big difference in your ballclub."

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