Less than three weeks until Grapefruit League games. Time to get loose.BillFreehan.jpg

  • If you, like me, are inexplicably fascinated by the uniform numbers worn by Tigers players, you’re going to be disappointed that the Tigers haven’t yet assigned numbers to the new guys.
  • Arm troubles limited Doug Brocail‘s career trajectory but not his longevity — he pitched for four clubs, including Detroit, for 15 season. (In four seasons with the Tigers he notched a 17-14 record with a 3.06 ERA; he also started four games in 1997.)

    The flame-throwing setup guy is retiring after countless surgeries and a serious heart issues. ESPN’s Buster Olney caught up with him to discuss his career highs and lows, and to my delight a lot of his best memories come from his years in Detroit. Here are a few snippets:

    “When I think about it … the best pitch of my career — the most important pitch — was getting a double-play ball in the last game that was played in Tiger Stadium. I think Joe Randa was the hitter. I loved that place.”

    His favorite park was The Corner:

    “I was in awe of that place. The first time I ever walked in there, it was winter, and I got to the stadium. I didn’t know how to get anywhere, and you stood there, and it was like there was this weird presence.”

    And you don’t often hear players mention Buddy Bell as a sage, but he was for Brocail:

    “He told me, ‘Look, dork, you’re spending way too much energy out there as a starter. You’re going to the bullpen.’ It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

    His favorite teammate of all-time? Willie Blair.

  • Happy 55th Birthday to Chet Lemon. You can read the bio of Lemon that I wrote for an upcoming book on the 1984 Tigers. In doing the research on the piece I spoke with former White Sox GM (and current Diamondbacks exec) Roland Hemond; he’s the man who acquired Lemon from the A’s and later traded him to the Tigers. Anyway, I asked him what he thought of Chet’s predilection for diving headlong into first base. “Oh, God, we hated that,” he said.

    You weren’t alone.

  • Today is also the birthday of Gary Knotts (33) and the late Pat Dobson.
  • Personally, I’d love to see Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen get stuck with Johnny Damon and then try to figure out where to play him.
  • Speaking of Damon, if things pan out as they seem to be headed, and Damon dons number 18 for the Tigers, it would come a surprise to respondents of the Fungo Pulse Check. Here are the results of our recent poll question, Who is the Tigers Opening Day centerfielder?:
    • Austin Jackson: 53 percent (49 votes)
    • Clete Thomas: 22 percent (20)
    • Damon: 19 percent (18)
    • Wilkin Ramirez: 6 percent (6)

    Then again, maybe they see Damon in left field. Be sure to weigh in on our latest poll, available in the sidebar –>

Enjoy the Winter Olympics and have a great weekend.