DETROIT -- The Tigers added an arm to what is expected to be a wide-open bullpen competition by claiming right-hander Johnny Barbato off waivers from the Pirates on Thursday.The Tigers have been scouring the free-agent market for relief help, but have essentially been priced out as teams stock up. They'll
DETROIT -- The Tigers added an arm to what is expected to be a wide-open bullpen competition by claiming right-hander Johnny Barbato off waivers from the Pirates on Thursday.
The Tigers have been scouring the free-agent market for relief help, but have essentially been priced out as teams stock up. They'll take a look at Barbato, who has 37 Major League appearances over the last two seasons between the Yankees and Pirates. Pittsburgh designated Barbato for assignment last week.
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Barbato posted a 4.08 ERA in 24 appearances during two stints with the Buccos bullpen, striking out 23 batters over 28 2/3 innings. Most of those appearances were in low-leverage situations, usually with the Pirates trailing; he recorded only one hold for the season. The 25-year-old has a career strikeout rate of 8.2 per nine innings.
Barbato's fastball has averaged just over 94 mph in his Major League appearances, complemented by a slider and curve.
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Barbato joins a bullpen that had more than its share of struggles last year and correspondingly has no set roles beyond closer Shane Greene and setup man Alex Wilson. Joe Jimenez is the leading candidate in a wave of young arms on the way, but Jimenez is the only one likely to win a job out of Spring Training. Most aren't expected to threaten for a spot until midseason, barring injuries.
The Tigers had an open spot on their 40-man roster from last month's Winter Meetings. That had been expected to go toward a free-agent signing, but the Tigers' dealings over the past month have all been Minor League contracts and non-roster invites. Thus, no corresponding roster move was necessary to make room for Barbato.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.