LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers unconditionally released Mike Pelfrey on Thursday, ending the 33-year-old right-hander's Detroit tenure midway through a two-year contract.Pelfrey, one of Tigers general manager Al Avila's first free-agent signings, spent Spring Training competing for a roster spot after posting a 4-10 record and a 5.07 ERA for
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers unconditionally released Mike Pelfrey on Thursday, ending the 33-year-old right-hander's Detroit tenure midway through a two-year contract.
Pelfrey, one of Tigers general manager Al Avila's first free-agent signings, spent Spring Training competing for a roster spot after posting a 4-10 record and a 5.07 ERA for Detroit last season. He made 22 starts and two relief appearances.
Pelfrey reported to Spring Training having lost 25 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame in an effort to regain flexibility and better his chances in a rotation race with Anibal Sanchez, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. But while the latter three enjoyed very good camps, Pelfrey struggled, surrendering 15 runs on 24 hits over 17 innings, with six walks and 12 strikeouts.
Pelfrey's outing Wednesday against the Phillies was a microcosm of his camp -- a display of mid-90s fastballs amid struggles keeping the opposition off the board. He struck out the side in order in one inning, but he gave up back-to-back homers in another.
Pelfrey was emotional after receiving the news Thursday morning, but he understood the reasoning.
"I maybe kind of knew it was coming," Pelfrey said. "When they told me, I just apologized I put them in that situation to make that decision. I feel bad about that part of it. I obviously didn't live up to my end of the bargain.
"But I get it, man. These guys came in here and pitched great. They made the decision the other day to put Sanchie in the 'pen, and I knew that it didn't look good after that."
The Tigers signed Pelfrey to a two-year, $16 million contract in December 2015, hoping to shore up the back end of their rotation with a reliable veteran. The deal surprised some clubs for a pitcher who battled injuries and inconsistency the previous two seasons in Minnesota, but the Tigers bought on upside and background, having nearly drafted Pelfrey out of Wichita State in 2005.
By the end of last season, Tigers officials were left wondering whether a move to the bullpen might be best for Pelfrey. Instead, Detroit will eat the bulk of the $8 million salary Pelfrey is due this season. It's the second contract the Tigers have eaten this spring, having released Mark Lowe with one year and $5.5 million left on his two-year contract signed around the same time as Pelfrey.
Like the Lowe move, manager Brad Ausmus said telling Pelfrey he was released was difficult, but that the veteran pitcher took it professionally.
"He apologized, which he didn't need to do, because his effort was always there," Ausmus said. "It just didn't work out."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.