Weinhardt Could Offer Relief In 2010




DETROIT—There's a chance a former Oklahoma State pitcher will use an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League as a springboard to dash through the Tigers minor league system and earn a spot on Detroit's pitching staff in 2010.

It's just not the pitcher you might think.

Righthander Robbie Weinhardt, who was an OSU teammate of Tigers second-round draft pick Andrew Oliver in 2008, led all AFL pitchers with 29 strikeouts this fall.
That performance, and his fine work during the regular season, makes him a candidate to make the Tigers' bullpen this spring.

"I haven't talked to anyone (in Detroit) about that," Weinhardt said. "I just want to be healthy this spring and let things take care of themselves on the field."

Weinhardt, 24, began the season with low Class A Lakeland, posting a 0.85 ERA with 40 whiffs in 32 innings. The 2008 10th-round pick was promoted to Double-A Erie in July and continued to pitch well, finishing with a 2.30 ERA while fanning 32 in 31 innings.

He had a rough start in his first AFL outing, surrendering six hits and five runs in less than two innings. But he settled down quickly to finish with a 3.93 ERA, helping the Peoria Javelinas reach the AFL championship game.

In that contest, Weinhardt pitched the final two innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced to earn the win when the Javelinas scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to beat Phoenix 5-4.

"I had a rough start, but I got some confidence as I went on," Weinhardt said. "I made a correction on my delivery, and when I got my arm slot down a little bit I got more sink on my slider."

Weinhardt augments the slider with four- and two-seam fastballs as well as a changeup he started using this season. While his fastball generally sits in the low 90s, his success is based on commanding all of his pitches.

"The key for me (this season) was to throw strikes," Weinhardt said. "If I threw strikes and was aggressive, I had success. When I got behind, I got hit."

TIGER TALES

• To make room for the players who came to the team in the three-way trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks that sent Curtis Granderson to New York, the Tigers took righthander Freddy Dolsi and catcher Dusty Ryan off the 40-man roster. Both spent time with Detroit last season.

• The Tigers signed lefthander Brad Thomas, a 32-year-old native of Australia who spent the past two seasons pitching in Korea.