Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tigers, Chamberlain agree to terms on one-year deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers readied to depart the Winter Meetings on Thursday morning with the bullpen as their one piece of business left to address. By the time they boarded their plane for Detroit, they had lined up one more veteran arm to try to help.

With former Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, it's far from a surefire answer. But with a one-year deal, the hard-throwing right-hander is a risk the Tigers are willing to take.

Detroit officials spent Thursday morning finalizing the agreement after expressing interest earlier in the week with Chamberlain's agent. Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the deal will pay $2.5 million.

The Tigers have not confirmed the agreement, as is their policy when a deal is pending a physical.

The Tigers were looking for a short-term deal with a veteran reliever to help support hard-throwing youngster Bruce Rondon. It's an ironic fit for Chamberlain, once the hard-throwing youngster who seemed destined for stardom in New York.

"We're looking for another arm out there that we think is an established arm that can give us a little flexibility," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday morning before reports on Chamberlain emerged. "We're happy with Rondon as our setup guy."

The 28-year-old Chamberlain has spent the last three years working through injuries while trying to regain the form that allowed him to overpower hitters in his early years. He was a revelation in the Yankees bullpen
late in the 2007 season, then tossed 100 quality innings between starting and relieving in 2008.

After rotator-cuff tendinitis near the end of that season and a nine-win season in the Yankees rotation in 2009, however, Chamberlain's power arm showed signs of mortality. He moved back to the bullpen with some success in 2010, and had a statistically strong start in 2011, but elbow trouble led to Tommy John
surgery that summer.

While working his way back from surgery, Chamberlain sustained a potentially career-ending left ankle dislocation while playing with his son at a recreation center. He recovered in time to pitch in 22 games down the stretch that season, but went through a nightmarish 2013 campaign that included a right oblique strain.

Chamberlain went 2-1 with a 4.93 ERA in 2013, allowing 47 hits over 42 innings with 26 walks and 38 strikeouts. His fastball, which averaged 97 mph as a rookie in 2007 while frequently approaching triple digits, has averaged around 94-95 mph the last few years.

For Chamberlain, Detroit represents a fresh start outside of the New York spotlight. For the Tigers, Chamberlain represents a moderate-risk, high-upside reliever who will be working with pitching coach Jeff Jones, who once made his living trying to help similar pitchers regroup while serving as pitching coach at Triple-A Toledo.

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