Garcia, out of majors since early '07, agrees to deal with Tigers; Willis promoted

Updated: August 12, 2008, 8:18 PM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

The Detroit Tigers, who have scrambled all season to find pitching depth, have reached an agreement with free-agent pitcher Freddy Garcia.

Freddy Garcia

Garcia

The Tigers are expected to assign Garcia, who has not pitched in the majors since early in the 2007 season, to a minor league team at some point this month, so he can pitch and perhaps give himself a chance to reach the big leagues this year.

"He's a proven big league pitcher at a time in which it's hard to find pitching. He's always pitched well," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said. "He's healthy now after the surgery. It's just he needs to build up his arm strength. I don't know if there's enough time to do it, but we also figure that we don't have anything to lose to try. He's a guy that we've always liked."

Said Garcia: "Right now, I'm feeling really good. I need to throw innings, so I'll throw some innings [at Lakeland]."

Garcia, 33, has been working out on his own with a trainer this year, and he threw a bullpen session for scouts last week.

His agent, Peter Greenberg, felt very good about how Garcia looked, with his fastball velocity in the range of 85 to 87 mph -- lower than it probably would be if Garcia threw in a big league game, with the benefit of full adrenaline. Some scouts reported that Garcia looked "OK."

Garcia is 117-76 overall in his career, with a 4.07 ERA. He went 17-9 for the Chicago White Sox in 2006 before being traded to the Phillies in 2007, when he went 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA and required shoulder surgery.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Garcia was a good gamble.

"I think it's a shot. I think Freddy took a shot and obviously thought enough of us to sign with us, and certainly we thought enough to sign him," he said. "Take a shot. See what happens. I don't think either party has anything to lose, but I think it's a good deal for both parties."

Also on Tuesday, the Tigers promoted Dontrelle Willis to Triple-A Toledo.

Willis, sent to Class A Lakeland in June to work on his control, is scheduled to pitch Friday for the Mud Hens.

Acquired with Miguel Cabrera in an offseason trade with Florida, Willis has struggled all year. In five major league games and 11 1/3 innings this season, he is 0-1 with a 10.32 ERA.

"He has shown a lot of improvement the last few times, and people feel he's ready to pitch there [Toledo]," Dombrowski said. "He's eager to do that."

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine

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