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Detroit Tigers look for sweep over Cleveland Indians

Apr 1, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) waves to the crowd before the game against the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) waves to the crowd before the game against the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Civale has started 22 games for the Cleveland Indians over the last two seasons. Civale will make his first start this season on Sunday and, in some ways, he’s a new addition to the rotation.

Civale spent the offseason completely revamping his mechanics. He’ll put that new delivery on display in Detroit in the finale of a three-game series.

Last season, Civale started 12 games and finished 4-6 with a 4.74 ERA. Assistant pitching coach Ruben Niebla suggested some improvements, and Civale was convinced that changes were necessary in order to become a more efficient starter.

“I’m just going to continue with the path I’m on and trust those around me and those that have done it before to keep an eye on things,” Civale said. “I think I’m in a good spot and I’ll continue to work and develop.”

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Manager Terry Francona credits Civale for being open minded, rather than sticking to what he’s done to reach the majors.

“The more you’re around Aaron,” Francona said, “the more you trust him.”

Civale didn’t have any trouble posting strong numbers against the Tigers during his first two seasons. He’s 3-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts, with two of those victories coming at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

He’ll be opposed by left-hander Tarik Skubal, one of several highly-regarded pitching prospects in the Tigers organization.

Skubal got a taste of the majors last season, making seven starts in eight appearances and finishing with a 1-4 record and 5.63 ERA. He notched 37 strikeouts in 32 innings.

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He wasn’t a lock to make the rotation this spring. He earned a spot and new manager A.J. Hinch’s trust with his five-pitch repertoire, though he mainly relies on a four-seam fastball and slider.

“I think he’s going to be something,” Hinch said. “He’s not a perfect pitcher right now. But he’s got plus stuff, and when he pitches ahead (in the count), it’s a completely different at-bat for the hitter. They have to deal with a lot.”

He faced Cleveland once last year, striking out five over 2 1/3 innings.

The Tigers won the first two games of the series and will look for the sweep on Sunday. They have shown some defensive versatility in those games. Miguel Cabrera, who had some cramping issues on Saturday, started at first base on Thursday with Jonathan Schoop at second.

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In Saturday’s 5-2 victory, the Tigers had Schoop at first base and Niko Goodrum at second.

Schoop has mainly played second base during his career.

“Schoop is very versatile,” Hinch said. “He’s done a nice job at second base predominantly his whole career and he’s played a little bit on the left side. Niko’s a pretty good athlete up the middle. He can do a lot of things. I felt that was the best arrangement. Having middle infielders able to play on the corners is very advantageous.”

The bright spot for the Indians on Saturday was Eddie Rosario, who drove in both runs with a homer and sacrifice fly. Rosario also walked twice, but Cleveland has only scored four runs in the first two games.

Rosario signed a one-year, $8 million contract during the offseason with the Indians after spending his first six seasons with Minnesota.

–Field Level Media