LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Once again, the Tigers have tapped their Far East scouting efforts to bring back a former Major League pitcher. They signed Australian right-hander Chris Oxspring to a Minor League contract with a chance to potentially compete for a job in Spring Training.
The 33-year-old Oxspring is the second Australian pitcher in as many years to jump from pro ball in the Far East to a contract with Detroit. Brad Thomas signed a Major League deal last winter and spent the entire season on the Tigers' pitching staff. Coincidentally, they're teammates this winter in the Australian Baseball League on the Sydney Blue Sox, for whom Oxspring is also the pitching coach.
Compared to Thomas, though, Oxspring's big league resume is much less extensive. He made five appearances in the Major Leagues for the Padres in 2005 and has been trying to work his way back ever since. After spending the 2006 season with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan, Oxspring made it back to the States on a Minor League deal with the Brewers and spent half a season in Triple-A ball before Milwaukee sold his contract to the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Oxspring has been playing in Korea ever since. According to an article two weeks ago in The Queensland Times, Thomas took part in the fledgling league in Australia as part of his rehab from reconstructive elbow surgery.
"He's a guy that we're bringing to big league camp that we think might compete for a spot, but could also give us protection pitching in Triple-A," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
Combined with the signing of Fu-Te Ni two winters ago, the deals are part of a bigger effort in the Far East to find talent that can contribute right away. What was once a very small part of the Tigers' scouting ranks has become a bigger priority in recent years with help from international operations director Tom Moore and vice president/special assistant David Chadd.
"We grew our operation there over the last few years," Dombrowski said. "We really sat down five years ago and discussed the growth when David Chadd came in and joined us, and where we were going to go with our scouting, and how we were going to grow it, talking about our Latin American and international operations. So we started having the thought process there, but it takes a while to build that and bring people on board.
"It takes a while, but I'd say we're definitely signing more players from the Far East. I think we also have a better pulse of what's going on with some of our people that do a real fine job for us. If they make a recommendation, we have confidence in what they're saying."