In Tigers' 'pen, Chafin aims to ‘trust my stuff and hope for the best’

March 18th, 2022

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Andrew Chafin is never going to try to complicate his ability to run out of a bullpen and throw a baseball.

Asked what he brings to the Tigers after signing a two-year, $13 million contract this week, Chafin paused and smiled.

“Oh, probably a decent sinker and a good slider,” he said. “No, no, I guess I’ve been around a little bit now, and if you want to say wisdom or something like that, to be able to come in and do the best I can to help in every situation around the clubhouse, on the field, whatever.”

Asked how he ended up signing with the Tigers and the process of going through offers from various teams, Chafin said, “Quite honestly, I just asked my agent to take care of all of it and just let me know the legitimate contenders, just weighed the options and went from there.”

Did the process weigh on Chafin?

“Nope, I was cool as a cucumber the entire time,” he said with a laugh. “No, let’s be honest: This whole situation this year has been an absolute crapshoot. You’ve just kind of got to roll with it and do the best you can.”

This is Chafin, as direct of an interview as he is as a pitcher. His beard and long hair resemble that of former Tigers lefty Daniel Norris, but behind a laid-back personality and big frame, Chafin is a straight shooter behind the microphone and on the mound. The Tigers are getting one of the best lefty relievers in the game from last season, a workhorse out of the bullpen who has pitched in 70-plus games in four of the past five seasons -- the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign being the exception.

He was devastating against left-handed hitters last year, and barely easier for right-handed batters to face. He does not have a special formula for it, nor does he need analytics telling him whether he did well or not.

“Honestly, just throwing strikes and letting [hitters] get themselves out,” Chafin said. “Like, I didn’t even get the chance to strike half the people out because they were either out in two pitches or on base. My biggest goal last year was, I want to go out and throw a three-pitch inning. Here’s a sinker, roll it over, let’s move on to the next guy. Just attacking hitters, I think, is the primary mindset change that I had last year to years previous. Here it is, trust my stuff and hope for the best. …

“Once the ball leaves my hand, it’s out of my control anyway, so just react. Why beat yourself up over giving up a hit or something like that? It’s taken me five, six years in a big league career to really kind of grasp that and truly start believing it. I mean, just do everything you can to the best of your ability, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch can use that attitude in his bullpen stable of hard-throwing young arms, even though he and Chafin did not discuss Chafin's potential role prior to his signing.

“We didn’t really talk about it until, like, 20 minutes ago,” Chafin said. “We haven’t really had the chance to really dig into anything. Basically, he just said to be ready to pitch when it might be your turn to pitch, and I said OK.

“When the phone rings for me, I’m ready to go. That’s all that really matters.”

That should be music to the ears of Hinch, the manager who leaned into the bit of not referring to Gregory Soto as his closer until the end of the season.

Soto was an All-Star and led the Tigers with 18 saves, but the lefty also pitched everywhere from the sixth inning to the ninth, and not just due to shortened doubleheader games. In many cases, Soto’s earlier appearances came in big situations against key left-handed hitters, a role that Chafin can help fill.

It wasn’t just Soto who had a multi-dimensional relief role for Detroit last year. Michael Fulmer had 14 saves, yet pitched in every possible inning between the first and ninth. Rookie Kyle Funkhouser picked up seven relief wins, nine holds and a save, the first of his career. Alex Lange pitched everywhere from innings five to nine for the Tigers and notched his first big league save.

Chafin has the chance in Spring Training to learn all about the team he admittedly did not know much about going into the deal.

“I don’t know enough about the team yet, in all honesty,” Chafin said. “I’m still a new guy here, so I’m trying to figure names out.”