By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – When the Detroit Tigers cut loose slugger Prince Fielder and his behemoth of a contract, many fans celebrated. When the Tigers traded solid starting pitcher Doug Fister, freeing up some more funds, people were less enthusiastic. Now that the Tigers have signed reliever Joba Chamberlain to a one-year, $2.5 million deal in favor of $4 million for Jose Veras, some have perceived that Detroit is cutting payroll.
General manager Dave Dombrowski says any idea the Tigers are spending less is basically bogus.
“I think we’ve talked about that the last time you guys were all here,” Dombrowski said in a teleconference Friday. “I’m not really sure where that comes from because you can see our payroll numbers are not down, so I’m not really sure where that comes from other than people continuing to talk about it, but the reality is it’s not true.
“We have a very hefty payroll,” Dombrowski added. “We’ll be one of the highest payrolls in major league baseball, continue to be that, and our payroll … this year is higher than it was last year.”
More specifically, the reason the Tigers signed Chamberlain instead of Veras had to do with what they felt Chamberlain contributes, not the fact they could obtain him more cheaply.
“No offense to Jose Veras because he’s a solid guy and we like him, but we had an opportunity even to bring him back, and we like Joba,” Dombrowski said. “We had our choice of a lot of guys who are still out there for one-year deals, maybe even a two-year deal in a couple of different cases … We like Joba. We’ve liked him in the past, our scouts that have seen him have liked him, we realize that coming off of Tommy John sometimes it takes a while to come back, and velocity last year was good.
“The commitment that he has to get back and to try to resurrect his career to be the kind of pitcher that we know he’s capable [of], the ability’s still there,” Dombrowski continued. “He’s a big guy, but he’s also in pretty good shape … We like what he brings to our bullpen.”
Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery in June of 2011. He recorded a 4.35 ERA through 22 games in 2012 after returning to the mound in August. In 2013, Chamberlain’s ERA was a career-high 4.95. The reliever said he has not had issues with his elbow since the surgery but knows getting back is an uncertain process.
“You can’t really know what to expect,” Chamberlain said. “Everybody reacts different, and everybody comes back from it different … You kind of have to learn your arm again, and learn what to do, when to pull back, and when to understand what you elbow’s telling you.”
As far as the frequency with which he walked batters in 2013 – 26 in 42 innings – Chamberlain said he cannot focus on the past. He simply stuck with the line that he has learned from it and is moving forward.
“We’re starting a new chapter here,” Chamberlain said. “I’m more so looking for the fact of the opportunity to be able to help this team any way I can.”