The claws of the Bengal have nearly grown back. Four years ago most of them either fell out or were extracted for reasons of senility. The new set consists largely of young men for whom the Tigers paid a fortune in bonuses. Some, like Al Kaline, Harvey Kuenn and Billy Hoeft, have already reached stardom. Others, like Frank House and Frank Lary, are still growing into their major league suits. The club has seasoned its juvenile spirit with a dash of experience from proven veterans like Ray Boone, Ned Garver and Virgil Trucks. There is real quality in most of the infield and outfield, plus half of an impressive batting order and a pitching staff with three potential 20-game winners. When everything clicks, when everyone is healthy, Detroit will have plenty to cheer about, but there is not yet the all-round strength and depth for the long haul to the pennant.
6 AL KALINE, RIGHT FIELD: This right-handed slugger, while still a bonus baby, won the AL batting title in 1955 with a .340 average, including 27 homers. He has everything a young star needs—ambition, drive and a cool, tough mind.
7 HARVEY KUENN, SHORTSTOP: In three full seasons has never hit under .300 and is superb in any of first three batting positions. With a magnificent build for such a big man (6 feet 2 inches), he handles short with speed and grace.
8 RAY BOONE, THIRD BASE: Started career as shortstop successor to Lou Boudreau in Cleveland, but moved to third when traded to Tigers in 1953. Has hit 20 or more homers in last three seasons, usually bats cleanup.
44 BILLY HOEFT, PITCHER: Last season, his fourth with the Tigers, the lanky left-hander finally lived up to his promise with 16-7 record. Having gained necessary big league poise and control, he may well be the first 20-game winner for Detroit since Newhouser in 1948.
Bill Tuttle, the center fielder, is one of the AL's most underrated players; has tremendous speed, a superlative arm. Earl Torgeson, the bespectacled first baseman, is pure gold defensively, a fierce competitor, but lacks the long ball of a great first baseman. Frank House and Red Wilson, who divide the catching chores, are still just adequate but give the Tigers left-and right-handed batting respectively. With Ned Garver back at playing weight (he lost 25 pounds during the winter), and Virgil Trucks recaptured from the White Sox, there are two solid pitching veterans who should win 30 games between them. Then, if Steve Gromek and Frank Lary come through, the Tigers have all the right-handed pitching they can use, but a lack of lefties.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
12 BUDDY HICKS, SECOND BASE: May be the answer to the Tigers' biggest weakness. A slick fielder, this former Dodger farmhand was hitting very well in spring training.
23 VIRGIL TRUCKS, PITCHER: The prize of the winter trade with the White Sox that returns him to Detroit after three-year absence, he has 40 wins to get before reaching magic 200 mark. He is all business about getting there, despite his 37 years, 15 of them in the AL.
29 PETE WOJEY, PITCHER: Bought in winter from Dodger chain, was 12-6 with Montreal. A big hope for the future.
Two newcomers to the Tiger scene—Wayne Belardi and Chick King—should bolster the weak pinch-hitting.
BOARD OF STRATEGY
32 BUCKY HARRIS, MANAGER: As a 27-year-old second baseman for Senators was appointed "boy manager," has since managed 27 years in AL. Well liked, uncontroversial, plays by the book, doesn't like the big gamble.
Coaches are JOE GORDON (33), one of AL's greatest infielders, who handles first base; BILLY HITCHCOCK (34), just past playing days as infielder, who handles third; JACK TIGHE (35), once catcher in minors.
29 PETE WOJEY