Tigers swing deal for right-hander Balester
Former first-round pick Perry sent to Washington
DETROIT -- Hours after the Tigers' signing of Octavio Dotel left Ryan Perry as a pitcher without a role, he became a pitcher on a new team. The Tigers sent the former first-round pick to the Nationals on Friday night in exchange for Collin Balester in a swap of talented but inconsistent relievers who could use a change of scenery.
"Acquiring Collin Balester from the Nationals today adds another good arm to our organization," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "He has shown the ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen in the past, a role we are looking for him to fill for our club in 2012."
The 25-year-old Balester has a big frame at 6-foot-5, and a power arm for a longer reliever. What he didn't have in Washington was a steady role. He went 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA for the Nationals this past season, striking out 34 batters over 35 2/3 innings. He went 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA at Triple-A Syracuse, with 46 strikeouts over 39 1/3 innings.
Balester was out of Minor League options, so he would've had to make Washington's bullpen out of camp or go onto waivers. He stands a better chance of making the roster in Detroit, where the Tigers have gone through a few different arms in long relief over the last few years.
"We look at him more for multi-inning relief," Dombrowski told MLB.com in a phone interview. "We look at him more as a guy pitching multiple innings. ... That was really more the difference between him and Ryan Perry at this time."
As for Balester's options situation, Dombrowski said, "We look at him as somebody that should be on our club."
Perry was a multi-inning reliever for a short stretch, but he best fit as a setup type of arm. Eventually, however, the Tigers ran out of time to wait for him to settle into the job.
Perry was the centerpiece of a reliever-heavy Tigers Draft in 2008, a hard-throwing right-hander who was the setup man of the future, if not a potential closer. But after he made the team out of camp the next spring, he never really found the consistency to hold down a role.
Perry pitched in 149 games for the Tigers over the last three seasons, but never quite showed the benefits of the experience. He went 2-0 with a 5.35 ERA for Detroit this past season, allowing 39 hits over 37 innings with 21 walks and 24 strikeouts. His career stats in three seasons as a Tiger include a 5-6 record, 4.07 ERA, 82 walks and 129 strikeouts over 161 1/3 innings.
Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland talked about Perry's pitching earlier this week during baseball's Winter Meetings. At that point, they were talking about what Perry needs to do to stick in the big leagues.
"He has to be consistent," Dombrowski said. "He has to command his fastball on a consistent basis. He has to get more consistent in his slider. And he has to, once in a while, change speeds, particularly versus left-handed hitters."
Leyland brought up the inconsistency of Perry's slider.
"There's too much differential between his good one and his bad one for me," he said. "He throws one of the best sliders you've ever seen, and then the next one's not a good one. It's not good at all. It's left in the middle and it spins. There hasn't been much in between. It's almost an exaggeration, and it's a little bit the same with his [fastball]."
The 24-year-old Perry pitched in 20 games over the summer for Triple-A Toledo, racking up seven saves while allowing 24 hits over 32 2/3 innings with nine walks and 30 strikeouts. Leyland said the reports from Toledo suggested that he threw his changeup with confidence in Toledo under less pressure.
Dotel's signing took away any chance Perry had for the seventh-inning role. Dombrowski, however, suggested Perry "could benefit" from a change of scenery. Before the trade, he talked optimistically about Perry reaching his potential.
"Again, he's still young," Dombrowski said Tuesday. "He got to the big leagues quickly. He just hasn't really gotten over the hump as much as we think he can. But he could be a very good pitcher, very valuable this year. We're hopeful that he will be."
If he takes that step, it'll come in a different uniform.