From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Built to win a World Series this year, the Detroit Tigers came close.Now they head into what could be another busy offseason for one of baseball's most talked-about franchises.Although Detroit won the American League pennant, a World Series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants leaves a disappointing taste for the Tigers. And it's important to remember that if not for a late-season swoon by the Chicago White Sox, Detroit might not have made the playoffs at all."We ended up just not being the main attraction. We got beat by the Giants," manager Jim Leyland said. "They were the main attraction. We got to the heavyweight fight and we got beat."Leyland was managing on a one-year contract. He and general manager Dave Dombrowski tried to forgo any public discussion of the manager's future until after the season, so that's probably the most immediate issue that needs to be resolved.If Leyland is back, he'll again preside over a core of talent that can match pretty much any in baseball. Justin Verlander may win his second straight Cy Young Award, and he's backed by right-handers Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, who have become imposing parts of the rotation.Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is in his prime, and Prince Fielder made a smooth transition to Detroit after signing a 214 million contract in the offseason.That was the move that signaled to everyone that the Tigers were serious about making a title run right away. It had actually been a quiet start to the offseason before designated hitter Victor Martinez went down with a serious knee injury that would sideline him for the whole 2012 campaign. Then the Tigers acted boldly, signing Fielder.They didn't cruise to the AL Central title as many expected. Instead, Detroit went 88-74, barely good enough to outlast the White Sox by three games.But Verlander threw a shutout at Oakland in Game 5 of the division series, and the Tigers swept the New York Yankees in the AL championship series, raising hopes that the team was peaking at exactly the right time."We've got to feel proud about what we did this year," Cabrera said. "We went through a lot, down and up."After Detroit went quietly in the World Series, questions will surface again on what needs to be done to improve."We have more experience now. The same team is going to be here -- that's a positive -- with more," Fielder said. "A lot of great things happened, but unfortunately it closed out with this. You win some and you lose some -- and we lost four."Martinez's return could mean the end of Delmon Young's tenure in Detroit, and closer Jose Valverde may not be in the team's plans either after falling out of favor during the postseason.The Tigers can exercise a team option on shortstop Jhonny Peralta -- or perhaps they could go in a different direction and try to improve their infield defense. If Detroit can't bring back right-hander Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly may need to step back into the rotation after a promising rookie year.Austin Jackson has solidified his hold on the center field spot, but left and right could be upgraded. Andy Dirks had a fine season in the outfield and Quintin Berry added some speed to the lineup, but are the Tigers willing to stick with them and Avisail Garcia in the corner outfield spots?A lot may depend on owner Mike Ilitch, who is still chasing the franchise's first World Series title since 1984. Ilitch signed off on the huge expenditure for Fielder, and if he's willing to raise the payroll even more, the Tigers may be active from the start this offseason.It was an uneven year at times for Detroit, but the window of opportunity is still very much open."We had a great run," left-hander Phil Coke said. "We just got cold at the wrong time."
ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.
There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.
First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.
“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”
The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.
Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.
-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.
-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.
-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.
Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.
-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.
-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.
-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.
-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.
-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.
ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.
Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.
“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”
Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain
“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”
Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.
“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”
Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.
He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.
“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”
Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.
“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”