DETROIT -- Franklin Pérez’s quest to try to get back to the pitching prospect he once was will continue in the Tigers' organization. The team announced Friday that it had re-signed the oft-injured right-hander to a Minor League contract, shortly after he cleared unconditional release waivers.
The new deal completes a busy week for Pérez, whose Minor League season ended before it could begin. The 23-year-old was scheduled to begin the season at High-A West Michigan, but was placed on the injured list with a right shoulder capsule defect.
An exam a week ago from Dodgers team physician and orthopedic specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache led to a recommendation of shoulder surgery.
The Tigers requested release waivers on Pérez on Wednesday to make room for catcher Eric Haase to return to the 40-man roster in order to be called up from Triple-A Toledo. It wasn’t as much of a statement about Pérez as about a 40-man roster that had three pitching prospects either undergoing or recovering from major surgery. Joey Wentz, Detroit’s No. 7 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and Alex Faedo, the No. 10 prospect, are on there while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
A return for Pérez on a Minor League deal had been expected, but was not guaranteed. Once Pérez cleared waivers, he could have signed with any team, but a return to the Tigers made sense for him for a few reasons: He knows the Tigers' training facilities and medical staff well, having dealt with a series of injuries the past few years, and can do his rehab process in a comfortable setting. He also makes his home with his family in Orlando and can drive back and forth to the Tigers’ Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., to do his rehab.
Maybe most important, Pérez knows the Tigers are more invested in his health and future than other organizations probably would be. He was the top prospect Detroit received from the Astros in the Justin Verlander trade, a deal that has been scrutinized ever since Verlander went on to win a World Series and an AL Cy Young Award in Houston. Due to injuries, Pérez has pitched just 27 innings in the Tigers organization since that July 31, 2017, deal.
Nobody needs to see Pérez get back to pitching more than the Tigers and general manager Al Avila. Thus, as frustrating as the last few seasons have been for Pérez, staying in the organization made the most sense for both sides.
Speaking of Wentz
Wentz continues to go through his rehab process from Tommy John surgery in hopes of getting back to pitching in the Tigers' farm system sometime this summer.
“I haven’t been updated that he’s going to get into competition right now,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday. “But we’re getting toward that middle part of the summer as you get into June. And when it gets close to the All-Star break, I think our hope is that he’s going to get a partial season in there, and it’ll be fun to follow.”
While Avila in Spring Training didn’t rule out Wentz making his Major League debut at some point this year, a midsummer return could make that difficult, barring a strong stint in the Minors and a September call-up. The 23-year-old lefty hasn’t pitched in games since posting a 2-0 record and 2.10 ERA in five starts for Double-A Erie, striking out 37 batters in 25 2/3 innings, following his arrival in the organization from the Braves in the Shane Greene trade.