March 13th, 2012

Monday: Parting ways with Pauley

Here’s what Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said about David Pauley upon acquiring him in the Doug Fister trade:

“The starter was our main objective, but we also wanted to help our bullpen if we could,” Dombrowski said. “Pauley can fit a bunch of different roles. He can pitch two or three innings, which we talked about at times this year that lack of a right-handed guy who can do that. He can do it very comfortably, but he can also pitch an inning, too. It just so happened to tie together well with this club, but we had other conversations going on individually with relievers.”

The conversations, by all indications, stopped after the Tigers obtained Pauley. As for Pauley, however, he made four appearances in early August — giving up two runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings in the fourth of them during a 10-3 loss in Cleveland — then his pitching time seemingly stopped. He went 10 days between outings, and pitched one-third of an inning in a two-week stretch.

That was the first sign this might not be a good fit.

“It’s a tough situation,” Pauley said when asked about that. “Coming over they wanted something out of me and it didn’t happen. That’s all on me. I don’t know, it’s kind of a … I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. That’s just how baseball works sometimes. You get real comfortable and then crap happens.”

Here’s what Tigers manager Jim Leyland said about Pauley last month:

“I think certainly David Pauley’s better than what we saw last year when he came to us,” Jim Leyland said. “He was really very, very good in Seattle. His name doesn’t get brought up very much. I don’t want to slight him, because this guy was pretty darn good over there.”

Pauley made three appearances this spring, including last Friday’s debacle against the Phillies. Three days that last outing, he was unconditionally released — no waivers or anything attached, no formalities.

As manager Jim Leyland put it, there just wasn’t a fit. Between Pauley’s performance and the crop of pitching coming up through the system, there wasn’t going to be a fit anytime soon.

As long as Doug Fister is pitching near the top of the Tigers rotation, the deal from Seattle last July will be a good one, kind of like how Dontrelle Willis’ struggles had no impact on how the Miguel Cabrera will be judged since Cabrera is that good. That said, it’s amazing how Pauley’s season went from career year to nightmare so quickly in the same season.

In the end, Monday’s release had kind of the feeling of a mercy move. By releasing him now, the Tigers give Pauley a better chance to find that right situation again somewhere before the season starts and before pitching staffs are set. Here’s hoping he can.

Pauley sounded the same way.

“I’m grateful they gave me an opportunity this early in spring to possibly get a job with someone else,” he said. “It doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve been on the opposite side of that sometimes, where you’re the last guy out of camp and you don’t find a job. I can only appreciate what they did for me and gave me the opportunities that they did. Now I’ve just got to move on and take the next step.”

What we learned: Even for a top prospect, a 3-0 count with the bases loaded to a guy who homered 20 times between the Majors and Triple-A last year is not a manageable situation.

What to remember from Game 10: Just when Jacob Turner looked like he had settled in after escaping a leadoff walk in his first inning of work, he came out the next inning and couldn’t find it again. It’s the second straight outing for him struggling to do that. When it happened last Wednesday, Turner said he just fell out of line with his mechanics and couldn’t make the adjustment. This time, Leyland used the term “dead arm” when describing how Turner looked to him.

Is it physical? It his mechanical? Could it be mental with the pressure of a job on the line? Hard to tell, but the numbers are pretty rough early on, with six walks and six hits over four innings. He could very easily recover from here and still have time to win a job. In fact, correcting something like this would be a very good sign for him. But it can’t be said that he’s just “getting his work in” or working on being ready for the season at this point.

What else to remember: You could say that unlike Jacob Turner and Drew Smyly, Andy Oliver got his four innings when most of the big leaguers in the Mets lineup were long gone. But then you look at Oliver’s stats from last season, and you remember that he struggled against Triple-A hitters too. However you slice it, this was a legitimately good outing for Oliver, good enough to change the header on the category. It wasn’t just that he had four innings of one-hit ball with no walks. It’s that he didn’t even reach a three-ball count the entire time, and when the game went to a 10th inning, he pitched it with even better stuff than he had in the ninth.

Somewhere in looking over those numbers from last year, especially the walks, people forget that Oliver pitched in the big leagues the last two seasons. Of all the fifth starter candidates, he actually has the most Major League starts with seven. This doesn’t even look like the same guy right now.

Hey, it’s only Spring Training: Yes, Avisail Garcia really did get intentionally walked in the ninth inning of a Spring Training game … as a pinch hitter. The strategy worked, because the Mets stranded the winning run on base with back-to-back strikeouts, and the New Yorkers salvaged a tie.

The highlight play you missed: Brandon Inge did another shovel pass to second to start a double play, this time helping Turner erase a leadoff walk in the fourth inning.

Looking ahead: Duane Below, who was originally slated to start Monday, gets his start Tuesday night against the Nationals in a game that will be on MLB.tv starting at 6pm. With Below pushed back to Tuesday, Doug Fister will get his work in against Tigers minor leaguers in a camp game scheduled for 11am at Joker Marchant Stadium. The camp games are sometimes cool, because with a generally empty stadium, you can hear everything.

While we’re at it, I’ll be doing an online chat at 11 at mlb.com. But just to be clear, that was already scheduled. I am NOT live-chatting a camp game.

To-do list for Tuesday: Get a good, extended look at Duane Below as a starting pitcher.

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