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Published: Saturday, 1/16/2010

17 get minor-league deals from Tigers

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ruddy Lugo tied for the International League lead in victories last year when he was 13-9 for the Mud Hens. Ruddy Lugo tied for the International League lead in victories last year when he was 13-9 for the Mud Hens.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The Tigers announced they have signed 17 players to minor-league free agent contracts, including five players who were on the Mud Hens' roster last season.

Detroit signed eight pitchers: right-handers Enrique Gonzalez, Ruddy Lugo, and Josh Rainwater along with southpaws Phil Dumatrait, Ryan Ketchner, Macay McBride, Sam Narron, and Jason Waddell.

Also signing with the Tigers were catchers Andy Bouchie, Robinzon Diaz, Mike Rabelo, and Max St-Pierre; infielders Kory Casto, Santo De Leon, Cesar Nicolas, and Jason Stokes, as well as outfielder Ryan Patterson.

Lugo, Rainwater, and Ketchner all pitched for Toledo last season. Lugo went 13-9, tying for the International League lead in wins, and had a 4.07 ERA in 25 starts for the Hens; Rainwater was 1-3 with three saves and a 5.76 ERA in 17 appearances here; and Ketchner was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two late-season starts.

St-Pierre hit .248 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 45 games with the Hens, while McBride spent the season on the disabled list recovering from elbow surgery.

Waddell and De Leon also spent time in Detroit's organization in 2009 as both played at Double-A Erie.

Waddell joins Diaz, Dumatrait, and Gonzalez as signees who played in the majors last season. Waddell had a 5.40 ERA in three appearances for the Chicago Cubs, while Gonzalez posted a 4.91 ERA in a pair of relief appearances with Boston.

Diaz and Dumatrait both saw action with Pittsburgh, with Diaz hitting .279 in 41 games with the Pirates while Dumatrait was 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA in 15 relief appearances.

Two of the more interesting signees were Rabelo and Stokes. Rabelo, who played with the Mud Hens in 2006 before being traded to Florida as part of the Miguel Cabrera deal, last season played in only nine games in rookie ball because of injuries.

Rabelo will be part of the competition for the back-up catcher position in Detroit along with Diaz and highly regarded prospect Alex Avila. Gerald Laird is the probable starter at that spot.

Stokes is a first baseman who was named minor league player of the year by The Sporting News in 2002 after hitting .341 with 27 homers and 75 RBIs for Single-A Kane County in the Midwest League. Injuries derailed his career, with a back injury forcing him to sit out the last two seasons.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Several members of last year's Toledo squad have signed free-agent deals with other teams.

Two former Hens inked minor-league contracts with Philadelphia. Pitcher Nate Bump, who went 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 starts for the Hens, signed with the Phillies, as did catcher Dane Sardinha, who hit .178 with three homers in 38 contests here.

Third baseman Mike Hessman, who led the Hens with 23 homers and 77 RBIs, signed with the New York Mets. Outfielder Brent Clevlen, who finished with a .265 average to go with 16 homers and 64 RBIs, signed with Atlanta.

Mike Maroth, a left-handed pitcher who played for Toledo in 2001-02 before losing 21 games for the 2003 Tigers, signed a minor-league deal with Minnesota.

REMEMBER US? Several familiar names finished at the top of the charts in the Dominican Winter League.

The league's batting-average champion was former Mud Hen Timo Perez, who played here in 2007-08. Perez batted .356 in 38 games for Licey, with new Detroit signee Robinzon Diaz second thanks to a .333 mark with Oriente.

Third on the list was another former Hen, Erick Almonte, who hit .325 in 49 games with Cibao.

The Dominican League leader in ERA was Jose Capellan of Cibao, who finished with a 2.15 ERA and also led the league with seven wins. Capellan is a right-hander who pitched for Toledo in 2007.

Jose Valverde and the Tigers reached a preliminary agreement on a $14 million, two-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hadn't made an announcement, said the deal includes a $9 million option for 2012 and is subject to a physical.

Valverde saved 25 games in 29 chances for Houston last season, then filed for free agency. He was 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 52 appearances.

Before that, the right-hander led the NL in saves in consecutive seasons. He had 47 with Arizona in 2007 and 44 for the Astros in 2008.

Detroit desperately needed a closer after choosing not to re-sign relievers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon. Rodney received an $11 million, two-year contract from the Los Angeles Angels, and Lyon signed with Houston for $15 million over three years.

The 30-year-old Valverde is 19-19 with a 3.17 ERA and 167 saves in seven major league seasons - five with the Diamondbacks and two with Houston. He was an all-star in 2007, when he won the Rolaids Relief Man Award in the NL.

Valverde is a Type A free agent. He turned down a salary arbitration offer from the Astros, so they would receive compensation for his departure in this year's amateur draft.



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