USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Keys to victory

- – Even Petzold

El Mago: In late 2021, the Tigers signed shortstop Javier Báez to a six-year, $140 million contract. He enters his second season and seeks a bounce-back performanc­e like many of his teammates. In 2022, the two-time All-Star hit .238 with 17 home runs in 144 games despite finishing better than he started by posting a .750 OPS in his final 94 games. He isn’t built to carry a team for an entire season, but he certainly can carry a team in spurts throughout a season. An improved Báez, from start to finish, will go a long way in helping the Tigers. He can opt-out of his contract after the 2023 season, but that seems unlikely to happen.

The youngsters: For the Tigers to win, they’ll need first baseman Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene to perform like All-Star players in their second seasons. Greene, 22, hit .253 with five home runs in 93 games last season, while Torkelson, 23, hit .203 with eight homers in 110 games. In spring training, they look more comfortabl­e in their skin as big leaguers. The Tigers drafted Greene with the No. 5 overall pick in 2019 and Torkelson with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020.

Hitting department: The Tigers fired hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh after the historical­ly bad offense was shut out 22 times and held to 3.44 runs per game. The team replaced Coolbaugh with three hitting coaches from outside the organizati­on: Michael Brdar, Keith Beauregard and James Rowson. The Tigers expect these coaches to advance their developmen­t at the highest level.

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