December 7th, 2010

Alfredo Figaro to Japan?

Not exactly scalding the hot stove, I know, but credit with the scoop on Tigers pitching farmhand Alfredo Figaro and negotiations for him to join the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League. Nothing is finalized, but talks are ongoing.

Figaro was kind of an underrated pitching prospect rising through the farm system when the Tigers gave him a shot in 2009. He made two starts that June — one really good, the other very bad — and went back to Triple-A Toledo before coming up in September for some relief work. His ill-fated spot start against the White Sox on the final Saturday of the regular season was highly scrutinized, you might remember, but the Tigers understandably didn’t want to start rookie Rick Porcello or ace Justin Verlander on short rest.

Figaro went 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in eight games for the Tigers this past season, allowing 11 earned runs on 18 hits over 14 2/3 innings. He walked eight and struck out five. With the Tigers’ pitching ranks getting deeper at the upper levels now as more recent draft picks rise up the ranks, Figaro might have reached his ceiling with Toledo.

Will it impact the Tigers? Not really. The main difference will be another rotation spot open for the Mud Hens, where Andy Oliver and Charlie Furbush front what should be a talented starting staff. Some have seen Furbush as a darkhorse candidate for a lefty relief spot in Detroit at some point during the season, but I seriously doubt he’d be used that way in the minors, especially with the Tigers needing to identify some insurance starters other than Oliver if case the injury bug hits early.