DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers had seen enough from their shaky bullpen to know something had to be done.
The AL Central-leading Tigers acquired right-hander Joakim Soria, giving them an option to pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning as soon as Thursday night on the road against the Los Angeles Angels. Detroit dealt pitching prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson to the Texas Rangers to get Soria on Wednesday night.
“We gave up a lot, guys that we valued,” Dombrowski said Thursday. “But it was a necessity.”
The Tigers have been working on improving their bullpen for weeks because closer Joe Nathan has been inconsistent, setup man Joba Chamberlain has been their only reliable reliever and it appears Joel Hanrahan will not be able to pitch this year.
Soria was 1-3 with a 2.70 ERA, saving 17 games in 19 chances this year with the Rangers. The 30-year-old pitcher from Mexico is 15-18 with a 2.51 and 177 saves in 1999 chances over five years with the Kansas City Royals and two in Texas.
When the Tigers were considering making a move to add Soria, they asked Nathan and Ian Kinsler about him.
“Both of them were effusive in their praise of him as a player and a pitcher and as far as his makeup on the team,” Dombrowski recalled. “One of the comments was, ‘Why don’t we have him yet?‘”
The two-time All-Star might pitch in seventh innings before Chamberlain follows in the eighth and Nathan closes games. Or, Soria might be used by manager Brad Ausmus even later in games, according to Dombrowski.
Soria sounds as if he will be happy whenever he is on the field for Detroit, joining a franchise aiming for its first world championship since 1984 and leaving a last-place team that has had high hopes dashed by a slew of injuries.
“I’m going to do whatever they want me to do,” Soria told reporters in New York on Wednesday night after a rain-shortened loss to the Yankees. “I just want to help them win the World Series.”
The Rangers signed Soria to an $8 million, two-year contract before last season as he was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. His contract includes a $7 million club option for 2015 with a $500,000 buyout, making him even more attractive to the Tigers.
“It was a real plus for us to know we can have another quality pitcher for next year,” Dombrowski said.
To help this season, Detroit signed Hanrahan to a $1 million, one-year deal in May — a year after he had elbow surgery — to pitch out of the bullpen. Dombrowski, though, said it is “highly unlikely,” that Hanrahan will pitch this season.
“We’re not counting on him at all,” Dombrowski said.