Tigers Add Relief With Alburquerque





LAKELAND, Fla.—When the Tigers signed Al Alburquerque in November, he was anything but a typical minor league free agent.

One reason is obvious: the Tigers signed the 6-foot, 195-pound native of the Dominican Republic to a major league contract and placed him on the 40-man roster. That certainly was an unusual way to sign a righthander who had never played in a game above Double-A since signing in 2003.

Alburquerque's career has been slowed by injuries. Originally signed by the Cubs, he missed all of 2005 because of Tommy John surgery, then did not pitch in 2008 because of a shoulder operation. After a 2009 trade to Colorado, Alburquerque posted a 4.98 ERA in 25 relief efforts with Double-A Tulsa.

So why did the Tigers sign him this past offseason? One reason is that he is just 24. Another is that he has touched the high-90s on occasion, and has flashed a slider with good late action that sits in the high-80s.

"He has pitched well in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and based upon our reports, we feel he will compete for a spot in our bullpen," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said when Alburquerque signed.

Alburquerque was optioned to the minor leagues midway through spring training because of control problems, having given up five runs in just 71⁄3 innings thanks largely to seven walks.

What makes his wildness unusual is that Alburquerque showed good command of his slider, but was unable to consistently throw his fastball for strikes.

"If he (corrects) that, he'll be a big league pitcher for a long time," manager Jim Leyland said.

For now he'll likely begin the season with Triple-A Toledo, working on harnessing his fastball in an attempt to complete a most unusual circuit to the big leagues.

TIGER TALES

• Righthander Brandon Hamilton announced his retirement. The 60th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Hamilton never advanced beyond low Class A West Michigan and did not pitch last season.

• Among the minor league players the Tigers released this spring were righthander Josh Rainwater, a fourth-round pick in 2003, and second baseman Alden Carrithers, who hit .359 in 60 games for high Class A Lakeland last year.