Tigers deal Galarraga to D-backs for two hurlers
Detroit receives pitchers Eichhorn, Robowski in exchange
DETROIT -- It isn't a perfect scenario for Armando Galarraga, but he's moving on to a better situation than he faced here. The Tigers traded the right-hander, best known for his would-be perfect game, to the D-backs on Monday for pitching prospects Kevin Eichhorn and Ryan Robowski.
In so doing, Galarraga goes from a Tigers rotation where he was on the outside looking in after Brad Penny's arrival last week to a D-backs rotation where he finally seems to have a home.
"I talked with Armando earlier today and thanked him," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on a Monday afternoon conference call, "and he was very thankful of everything from the organization. I told him it was a good opportunity for him. Arizona was very aggressive in trying to get him, and he has a great chance of making their rotation.
"It's really the best-case scenario for all involved. We're happy for him that it's worked out, and we were able to get a couple prospects in return."
Arizona would pick up all of Galarraga's contract, set to be $2.3 million, if he makes the team. Unlike in Detroit, there seems to be no question of that.
After a crazy ride over the past eight months -- from a perfect game blown by Jim Joyce's call to a four-win season, despite a 4.49 ERA, to being bumped out of Detroit's rotation this winter -- Galarraga is happy to get some security.
"It's always a concern when you don't know where you're going," Galarraga told MLB.com in a phone interview. "I'm excited now and looking forward to a healthy season.
"I understand everything is a business, and that's the way it is in baseball. There's a lot of trades now. Detroit's always going to be the place that gave me my first opportunity."
A deal had been more a matter of "when" than "if" since Saturday. Dombrowski said at TigerFest that afternoon that talks were progressing with multiple clubs and that a trade was likely by the middle of the week. Soon after, the D-backs emerged as front-runners.
Eichhorn, a right-handed starter who turns 21 years old in two weeks, started 13 games with Rookie-level Missoula in the Pioneer League during the 2010 season, posting a 5-5 record with a 4.94 ERA. He's expected to start out at low-Class A West Michigan.
Robowski, a lefty reliever who will turn 23 next week, went 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 35 games for Visalia, allowing 69 hits over 54 innings with 51 strikeouts. Dombrowski indicated he could begin the season at high-Class A Lakeland or get a promotion to Double-A Erie.
Dombrowski referred to them as "fringe-type" prospects, but added that both carry upside at their age.
Whatever happens in Arizona, it's an end to a whirlwind stretch for Galarraga, who went from a rather anonymous fifth starter to a national celebrity with one historic outing. He retired the first 26 batters he faced last June 2, putting him within an out of a perfect game, when umpire Joyce missed a call at first base on a ground ball by Cleveland's Jason Donald.
What would've been a mess of a story became a lesson in sportsmanship thanks to Galarraga, whose graciousness and willingness to publicly forgive Joyce soothed over anger from fans and teammates alike. The two had an emotional meeting after the game, then shook hands at home plate before the next day's game.
Galarraga hoped that game would be a springboard for him to a breakout season that would establish him as a Major League starter. Instead, he won just two games over his remaining 21 starts for the season. When he pitched well, he was often short on run support, including seven quality starts that didn't earn him victories. When the offense did score for him, he struggled with low consistency and high pitch counts. The sum total was a 4-9 record and a 4.49 ERA.
Not since Eric Hillman in 1993 had a Major League pitcher won four games or fewer in a season when they posted a 4.50 ERA or less over at least 140 innings. Just three others besides Hillman had pulled off that feat since '85: Larry McWilliams and Zane Smith in '89 and John Dopson in '88. Galarraga was the first American League pitcher to do it since Frank Tanana in '81.
"Last year, I didn't think I was that bad," Galarraga said. "I know I didn't have a lot of runs."
Galarraga's frustration became more evident as the summer unfolded, culminating in a mid-August meltdown against the White Sox that included a heated argument in the dugout with catchers Alex Avila and Gerald Laird. It came back to whether he was able to pitch aggressively and attack the strike zone.
The Tigers penciled him into the back of their rotation for 2011, but their preference to find another candidate became evident as the offseason continued. Once they officially signed Penny to a one-year contract, they made room for him on the roster by designating Galarraga for assignment last Tuesday, just hours after they avoided arbitration with Galarraga.
The timing of it left Galarraga admittedly upset, but he moved past it quickly.
"Detroit has a business," he said, "and they feel I'm not going to be a starter and I understand that. Detroit's always going to be a special place for me. I don't have anything against anybody. I wish Detroit nothing but the best."
Ironically, some of the same understanding he displayed after the perfect-game bid helped him through the past week.
"I'm pretty good at turning the page," he said. "That's what I'm going to do."