Most of the formalities were already out of the way.

The young players Jim Leyland didn't know, he introduced himself to last month during the Tigers caravan.

"I spoke with them to relax them a little bit," Leyland said on Sunday after arriving in Lakeland. "I didn't want them to get stage fright when they see an old man."

Starting his 50th year in professional baseball, Leyland arrived for spring training the way he's always arrived since being hired as the Tigers' manager.

The same routine: Stopping at the old entrance, greeting the fans who hang out by the clubhouse, sitting back in his office chair, putting his feet up on his desk — and looking across the way at Ty Cobb's photo on the wall, the one he put a huge gash in years ago by throwing a shoe at it.

"I ripped him pretty good," he said.

That was back when, though.

It's 2013 now and Leyland at 68 is feeling good, as energized as ever, and is ready to tackle the three major decisions facing the Tigers.

Can Bruce Rondon close?

Who will win the fifth starter's job?

And how will the mix in left field turn out?

These are the decisions Leyland called "huge" in his first spring training discussion with reporters on Sunday.

But if you know anything about the Tigers manager, you know that so-called little decisions are also on his mind — because, in time, they often become huge as well.

"We're pretty set," Leyland said, "but when you have the type of team we have, the decisions you make about those other spots can be the difference between winning and losing. It'll be really important how you put the last one or two pieces of the puzzle together. I'm a really big believer in that.

"You have to come out of spring training with the right 25 players, the ones who'll give you the best blend. So I think there will be plenty of action before it all plays out."



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130211/SPORTS0104/302110333#ixzz2KbPKdMK0