Notes: Comerica winds hard to predict
Ballpark one of toughest outfields to play in American League
DETROIT -- Curtis Granderson has talked to many of the league's better outfielders and has generally received the impression that Comerica Park is one of the toughest outfields to play in the American League.
With winds holding over 20 mph and gusting over 35, it's not any easier.
After a full season maneuvering the spacious outfield at Comerica Park, Granderson feels like he's a better defensive center fielder, but still with a lot to learn about playing the park.
"It's still tough," Granderson said, "because there's some ballparks I go where I can see any and everything. I feel the conditions and the grass out there are better than some ballparks."
The winds, he said, are trickier to predict. Teammates who have played here longer haven't figured it out, either.
While winds at field level appeared to be blowing in on Opening Day, Granderson said they seemed like they were blowing in the opposite direction on the way out. That was one reason why Craig Monroe and Carlos Guillen couldn't get together on a first-inning popup that ended up being an RBI double.
Judging how the wind goes is tricky. American flags on top of the left-field scoreboard can blow in a different direction than the pennant flags beyond center field. Then, third baseman Brandon Inge said, there's the infield winds, which can sometimes be the opposite of the outfield winds if the wind swirls inside the park.
Most Tigers will judge the wind by the flags atop the scoreboard lights, because that will gauge the winds at higher altitudes that will affect popups. Even so, it's still hard to predict.
"It's trial and error," Inge said. "You can get a pretty good idea, but it's still trial and error."
Inge tries to prepare for the wind by hitting pop flies to himself during batting practice. Granderson will sometimes judge fly balls off the bat during batting practice. With a day game Wednesday and wet weather possible, however, there was no batting practice with which to judge.
Granderson will also get better ideas by talking with other players. If he can't chat with them, he'll watch how they play the outfield. He took note on Monday, for example, how deep Vernon Wells played in center, though he noticed it when Gary Sheffield was hitting.
Beyond the wind, Granderson said, there's the matter of picking the ball out from the stands, which raise up from field level at a lower angle than many other stadiums.
"Torii Hunter says he always struggles here," Granderson said. "Ichiro misjudged one here. And those are Gold Glove outfielders. It's something about when they come here. You have to stay at it and keep checking all the different elements, and know exactly who's hitting and who's pitching every time. Because every little bit will help make this field like the other fields. Whoever I get a chance to talk to, I'll try to pick their brain a little bit."
When the winds are like Wednesday's gusts, there's not much advice to give.
As manager Jim Leyland put it, "Here's your map and key, and good luck."
Rogers returns: Wednesday's ring ceremony brought Kenny Rogers back to the club for the first time since his surgery last Friday to remove a blood clot.
Rogers did not stay long, arriving in Detroit Tuesday night and leaving Wednesday afternoon. He received one of the louder ovations of any player from the fans when he was introduced to receive his AL championship ring.
"It was great," Nate Robertson said, "not just for myself and the team, but the fans. I think that it was just an opportunity for them to say thanks."
OK, Blue Jays, let's play ball: Wednesday's weather wasn't bad enough to postpone the game, but Thursday's forecast calls for more of the same, which could present a problem should the game not get in. This is the only trip to Detroit for the Blue Jays, so any postponement could force them to return on a mutual off-day for a makeup game.
That's one reason the Tigers often face a divisional opponent to open their home schedule.
"I don't think it makes a lot of sense to open up with a team you're not going to see again," Leyland said. "I mean, those guys go from here to Tampa Bay [for a weekend series]. And I'm not looking to agitate anybody."
Back in the Big Apple: Gary Sheffield made his return to New York on Tuesday, though not on a ballfield. He was in town to promote his just-released book, "Inside Power."
Sheffield ventured to Manhattan for an appearance on ESPN's morning show, "Cold Pizza," before appearing later on ESPNEWS. He also had a book signing appearance at a Barnes and Noble store on Fifth Avenue, and felt like he had a warm reception.
"I felt like I left on good terms, especially with the fans and all the people that played with me," Sheffield. "That makes you feel good. You leave a place -- doing what I've done there -- and the numbers indicate you should still be there, but for other reasons [you're not there]."
Sheffield was scheduled to make his first Detroit book signing Wednesday night at Hockeytown Café, signing books purchased at the event. A portion of each sale benefitted the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
On the payroll: The annual Associated Press list of Major League payrolls put the Tigers with the ninth-highest in baseball at $95,180,369, just ahead of Baltimore and about $4 million behind the Cubs. The only team in the AL Central with a higher figure is the White Sox at $109,680,167.
Coming up: Detroit righty Justin Verlander is scheduled to take on Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin when the Tigers face the Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game set at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday at Comerica Park.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.