TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tigers added another contestant to their rotation competition on Friday with a familiar face from Ron Gardenhire's past. Detroit agreed to terms with left-hander Francisco Liriano on a one-year contract.Liriano will earn $4 million, with another $1 million in incentives based on games started. The Tigers
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tigers added another contestant to their rotation competition on Friday with a familiar face from Ron Gardenhire's past. Detroit agreed to terms with left-hander Francisco Liriano on a one-year contract.
Liriano will earn $4 million, with another $1 million in incentives based on games started. The Tigers announced the deal Friday afternoon, with left-hander Jairo Labourt designated for assignment to make room for the 34-year-old on the 40-man roster.
"He told us he would like to start," general manager Al Avila said, "but that if we needed him to work out of the bullpen, that he would do that also. Obviously for us, it's really a good thing to have an experienced guy that can start, and if we need him out of the bullpen, we can do that. It'll play out in Spring Training to see how we start the season, and then once we commence the season, we'll see how that plays out."
The Tigers have been searching for starting pitching depth all offseason, an effort that had continued this spring. Avila said last week that he was looking to add at least one, and possibly two, pitchers before Detroit breaks camp. Another free agent, Chris Tillman, threw for team officials last Saturday in Lakeland before signing a one-year contract with the Orioles. Detroit had been pursuing Tillman for a Minor League contract and a non-roster invite.
Avila said they saw Liriano throw recently in Miami.
Though Detroit has five starters with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris, Avila has emphasized the need for depth. Zimmermann, who makes his first start of spring Saturday, has battled neck issues since signing with the Tigers two years ago, and he received a nerve block injection in his back earlier this month.
Norris, too, has battled injuries, and he traveled to Philadelphia earlier this week for a followup visit with Dr. William Meyers on his groin injury from last summer. He's being brought along slowly and has not been slotted into the Tigers' Spring Training rotation. Fiers also isn't scheduled to pitch in the first turn through the Tigers' rotation this spring.
"You saw how we ended up last year. It was not very good," Avila said. "We do have some question marks, so we always felt we needed a little bit more depth to make sure that we get started on the right foot and hopefully end on the right foot and hopefully give our young guys a little bit more time to develop. It's just something that we felt we needed at this point."
The Tigers know Liriano's potential well if he can bounce back, having watched him for the first half of his career as a front-line starter for the Twins under new Detroit manager Gardenhire and ex-Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson -- now the Tigers' bullpen coach -- from 2006-12.
"He's got filthy stuff," Gardenhire said. "He can throw a slider all day long, and people just keep swinging and missing. His fastball's good enough. And he's a great kid, just fantastic. He'll fit in perfect here. He's a worker, and these guys are going to love him over here. He's not a loud guy by any means, but he's a really good guy."
Liriano has bounced around in recent years, splitting last year between the Blue Jays and Astros after splitting the 2016 season between the Pirates and Blue Jays. In both years, he was dealt around the non-waiver Trade Deadline, giving him value for a rebuilding club like Detroit for the possibility of flipping him for prospects in the summer.
Liriano posted a 6-5 record and a 5.88 ERA in Toronto's rotation last year before Houston acquired him as a bullpen addition. For the season, his 4.9 walks per nine innings was his highest ratio since 2012. His 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings marked his first K rate under 9.0 since '11.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.