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Pelfrey signs 2-year, $16M deal with Tigers

DETROIT -- Six days after signing a frontline starter, the Tigers have found the veteran they were seeking to fill out their rotation, inking right-hander Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract worth $16 million.

"We are happy to add a veteran pitcher like Mike to our club," Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila said. "He is a proven Major League starter who will strengthen our rotation."

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Detroit's interest in Pelfrey goes as far back as 2005, when he was a highly touted right-hander out of Wichita State University. David Chadd, then in his first year as the Tigers' scouting director and living in Wichita, Kan., had a closeup look at Pelfrey as a Shocker.

The Mets drafted Pelfrey that year with the ninth overall selection, one pick ahead of Detroit. The Tigers selected high school outfielder Cameron Maybin. Now, it appears they'll have both, acquiring each of them less than a month apart.

Pelfrey, who turns 32 next month, spent the past three seasons with the Minnesota Twins, posting a 6-11 record and a 4.26 ERA over 30 starts in 2015. He allowed 198 hits over 164 2/3 innings, with 45 walks and 86 strikeouts. Pelfrey had the lowest homer ratio among qualified American League pitchers, allowing just 11 homers, but he also ranked third in the AL with 12 hit batters.

Pelfrey has battled back from season-ending injuries in two of the past four years, missing most of 2012 to Tommy John surgery before a shoulder injury and nerve irritation in his elbow limited him to five starts in '14. He delivered similar comeback seasons in '13 and '15: High hit totals, low home run damage and better metrics than results.

Pelfrey looked very good early in the year, boasting a 5-2 record and a 2.28 ERA through his first 11 starts. A pair of eight-run barrages in June sent his season spiraling with a 1-9 record and 5.62 ERA over his final 19 outings, as he lasted through the sixth inning in just seven of those matchups.

Pelfrey seemed to physically wear down after essentially a lost 2014. Yet his fastball velocity jumped from an average of 90.8 mph during his handful of 2014 starts to 93.3 last year, according to FanGraphs. It marked his highest average velocity for any full season in Pelfrey's career.

Pelfrey also reportedly went to a split-finger changeup, resulting in less reliance on his fastball.

It's not the glamour signing that Jordan Zimmermann was, but it gives the Tigers the veteran innings-eater they were seeking -- and one who has a chance for a bounceback year -- while leaving a rotation spot open long term for one of their young starters. Pelfrey will join Justin Verlander, Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez in Detroit's rotation, with the fifth spot a competition among young starters Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein, Buck Farmer and Michael Fulmer.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
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