November 30th, 2012

Tigers non-tender Daniel Schlereth (updated)

Turns out the Tigers did have a non-tender decision to make Friday, but it wasn’t an arbitration-eligible player. Instead, it was Daniel Schlereth, who’s a year away from arbitration but also a year separated from his healthy pitching form.

The left-handed reliever, who was part of the Tigers’ return in the Edwin Jackson trade at the winter meetings three years ago, missed most of this past season with shoulder tendinitis. He spent most of the summer trying to rehab his way back to pitching health and avoid surgery, and he got back in time for a rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo in August. He had some decent results, but his velocity was down, and he wasn’t activated from the DL when rosters expanded in September.

Team president/GM Dave Dombrowski said this afternoon that the health wasn’t an issue in the decision.

“I think he was fine at the end of the year,” Dombrowski said.

Indeed, Schlereth confirmed he’s in better shape now, and ready to start his offseason throwing program in preparation for Spring Training. Now he has to find a camp.

“Everything is good now,” Schlereth said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I actually have to start throwing this week or next week. If there was still something wrong by this time, I’d be having surgery, and I don’t plan to.”

So if it wasn’t a question of health, what was it?

“It’s just a situation where today you have to make final decisions,” Dombrowski said. “We just felt at this time the roster space was more appealing to us than having that spot tied up with his tender.”

The move caught Schlereth by surprise. He wasn’t angry, but he was definitely caught off-guard.

“I just never thought this would happen. This blindsided me,” he said.

At the same time, he had no hard feelings for the Tigers.

“I love the team,” he said. “It’s a great organization. Its’ going to hurt a little bit, but that’s life. They want to move on and I really can’t do that. I just have to go out and prove myself somewhere else.”

In the end, Schlereth does think the injury had something to do with it, at least the way it unfolded. He admits to trying to pitch through shoulder soreness in April, not saying anything about it until the Tigers tried to option him to Triple-A Toledo.

“At the end of the day, it’s my career, my doing. They did all they could do,” Schlereth said. “They recognized I was hurt in the big leagues and [the injury] didn’t happen in the minor leagues. And I’m actually thankful they did that, because being on the DL in the minor leagues would be brutal. I’m really thankful they did that. But there’s really nothing that could’ve changed. It was probably bound to happen.”

Dombrowski said the move doesn’t lead the Tigers into a search for another lefty reliever. Duane Below, Darin Downs, Matt Hoffman and Andy Oliver are currently on the roster with a chance to take the second lefty job in the bullpen (if Detroit carries a second lefty reliever). Casey Crosby also could end up being a factor, though he’s expected to work as a starter.

The Tigers tendered contracts to all their other players without long-term contracts. That includes outfielder Brennan Boesch, whom Dombrowski said last month they would tender a contract.

The Schlereth move brings the Tigers’ 40-man roster to 38 players and two open spots. They already had an open spot from releasing Ryan Raburn last week. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have multiple moves coming at next week’s Winter Meetings. It means Raburn and Schlereth weren’t going to be part of this team no matter what moves are coming this winter.