Notes, quotes on Joba’s return
If there was a situation being watched this offseason where the Tigers could bring back one of their free-agent relievers, the expectation was that Phil Coke was the one. Detroit had plenty of right-handers in camp already, including Joel Hanrahan, while the Tigers were thinner on lefties. It didn’t hurt, either, that neither the Tigers nor Joba Chamberlain’s camp were saying a peep about his situation, other than team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski not ruling out a return.
Instead, the Tigers have shown no signs of interest towards Coke. He has thrown for teams for the past several weeks in San Diego, trying to show the impact of tweaks he made in his mechanics, but neither manager Brad Ausmus nor scouts had watched him as of a week ago.
Meanwhile, quietly, the Tigers had kept the door open for Chamberlain, albeit at their price.
“We really never were actively pursuing the contract,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “Actually I didn’t think it was going to take place. We liked him, he did a good job, but I just couldn’t imagine it would get to that point. But it got to the point. …
Last offseason, Chamberlain signed for a $2.5 million base salary and appearance-based incentives that could add another $500,000. Chamberlain’s new deal includes the same incentives — $100,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games pitched — but a $1 million base salary. Even if Chamberlain hits all his performance incentives, he’ll make half as much as last year.
“I also thought somebody would step up and entice him to join them,” Dombrowski said. “And I don’t know what happened as far as why he turned down a couple offers. I never really asked him that, but I just assumed … that something would work out somewhere else. But it just didn’t for whatever reason.”
Dombrowski said Chamberlain had other offers that would put him in a position to make more — in other words, potentially higher incentives. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reported Tuesday that the Rangers made an offer.
“When we were talking to other teams and had the opportunity, it was best for my family and best for myself,” Chamberlain said. “The big thing is my son’s really comfortable [with Detroit] and that makes me comfortable. It’s just a tremendous opportunity.”
A few notes on that opportunity …
- Though Chamberlain’s arrival coincided with Joel Hanrahan being shut down from bullpen sessions for the time being due to soreness, Dombrowski said Hanrahan’s situation didn’t set up Chamberlain’s return. “Really, our situation with Joel has not changed at all,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve always talked about being in a situation where we weren’t counting on him. We were hopeful. We would see what would happen. So that really hasn’t changed at all, because I really never said in my mind he’s going to be part of our bullpen. It was always, ‘Let’s see what happens.'”
- Chamberlain will not be the eighth-inning setup man this time around, and he’s fine with that. “I still think he’s got the ability to pitch later in games,” Ausmus said. “Right now, Soria’s kind of the eighth-inning guy. But you have a few pitchers in Joba, Rondon and Alburquerque who certainly have the ability to pitch in the seventh or even the eighth.”
- Chamberlain is open to other situations. “There’s no inning that I haven’t pitched in,” he said. “Whatever Brad feels like I can work is where I’m going to work. Obviously we have some great arms in that pen and I’m so excited to be a part of it as well.”
- Chamberlain should be able to pick up camp close to the same point as everyone else. “I’ll probably throw a bullpen [Wednesday] and go from there,” Chamberlain said. “Games start soon. I’m not too far behind if behind at all. I’ve probably thrown six or seven bullpens, so we’re right where we need to be.”
- Chamberlain will wear number 44 again. Joel Hanrahan had that number as recently as the start of the Tigers workout Tuesday morning. By the end of the workout, there was a number 48 jersey hanging in Hanrahan’s locker.
- The scraggly beard is gone, surprisingly given the winter in Nebraska, and Chamberlain doesn’t plan on bringing it back. “No, we’re definitely going to keep it a little bit restrained from what it was last year,” he said. “That was a lot of growth. It won’t get that long, trust me. … I walked by a couple people [in the clubhouse], they didn’t recognize who I was.”