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The Orioles open a three-game series tonight at Comerica Field, with Chris Waters making his third major league start against up-and-down Tigers starter Nate Robertson. The Tigers have also been up and down as a team, and need to sweep the series against the O's just to get back to .500.

There was a time when the Tigers were viewed as a model for what the Orioles are trying to do. They suffered through a long postseason drought and lost 119 games in 2003, but developed a strong young pitching staff and made a surprise World Series run two years ago.

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The road they took was similar to the one Andy MacPhail has mapped out. Develop your own players. Emphasize organizational pitching. Sign free agent position players to fill the remaining holes when you get in position to compete.

That has worked out okay, but the Tigers have not won the AL Central title during their window of opportunity and this year has been a big disappointment. Nobody in Detroit expected to be looking up at .500 after acquiring young superstars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, and now veteran Gary Sheffield is openly complaining about being stuck in the DH role.

In other words, the best laid plans...

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