Hoffman Finds Role In Relief For Tigers





DETROIT—As roller-coaster rides go, Matt Hoffman's 2010 season was a thriller.

Hoffman spent most of his first two pro years as a starter on the fringe of the Tigers' future plans. After a year full of ups and downs, the 22-year-old lefthander has become another hard-throwing option for the Tigers' bullpen down the road.

A 26th-round pick in 2007, Hoffman began last season with an impressive display in the high Class A Lakeland bullpen, where in 23 innings he allowed four earned runs with an 18-2 K-BB mark.

"I think Matt found his niche in the bullpen, and was comfortable in that role," said Jon Matlack, the Tigers' minor league pitching coordinator. "He had worked hard to correct some flaws in his motion that helped him better command his stuff, and he came up with some additional miles per hour on his fastball."

Hoffman moved to Double-A Erie in early June, then was dispatched to Triple-A Toledo, but struggled in his four innings there.

"When he got (to Toledo), I think he tried to do more than what he had done in the past," Matlack said. "When he struggled, that shook him a little bit. Instead of business as usual, he tried to do more."

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hoffman returned to Erie and settled down somewhat, although he finished with a 7.43 ERA and nearly as many walks (20) as whiffs (22) in 27 innings.

Then came a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where Hoffman finished with a misleading 7.27 ERA thanks to one bad appearance. But his mid-90s fastball—which touched the high-90s on occasion—and improved slider were an exciting finish to the season.

TIGER TALES

• Lefty Casey Crosby, whose elbow swelling ruined his 2010 season, is fully recovered, according to team officials.

• Among those who recently have signed minor league deals with the Tigers are outfielder Timo Perez, second baseman William Bergolla and lefty Mariano Gomez, who hopes to become the second native of Honduras to play in the majors.