He's A Keeper

DETROIT—Some eyebrows may have been raised when the Tigers added righthander Jay Sborz to their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft.

Minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack completely understood the reasons behind the move.

"When he's done well, Jay's fastball has sat between 92-95 with such a good downward plane that nobody can see it or center it," Matlack said. "And while hitters try to deal with that, he busts them with a curve or a changeup. When he's right, it's nearly impossible to hit."

Despite all those things working for the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Sborz, the biggest problem for the 2003 second-round pick has been injuries. Sborz, 25, pitched in just three games in 2006 because of shoulder tendinitis, and the following season he missed the first three months because of tendinitis.

He pitched well for high Class A Lakeland in 2008, then spent most of last season with Double-A Erie, where he posted a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings, striking out 29. That earned him a ticket to Triple-A Toledo, where his season was derailed by more shoulder problems.

"I saw him pitch against Indianapolis, and he pitched two clean innings with three strikeouts before he started to feel a twinge in his shoulder," Matlack said. "When I talked to him about it, he said, 'I'm going to pitch until this gets better or my shoulder falls off.'

"Obviously we couldn't let him do that. But you have to tip your cap to him for his desire to keep pitching and work through the injury."

Matlack said Sborz, who has averaged 5.7 walks per nine innings in his career, also needs to refine his control.

"It's still more important for Jay to throw more strikes than balls," Matlack said. "He has to work to get more than just a fastball that he can throw for a strike at any time in any count."


• Among the minor league free agents the Tigers have signed this offseason is catcher Mike Rabelo, a former Tigers draft pick traded to the Marlins in the Miguel Cabrera deal.

• The Tigers also signed minor league free agent Cesar Nicholas, a 27-year-old first baseman who spent last season playing independent ball after the Diamondbacks released him in spring training.