CLEVELAND -- Twenty years ago Thursday, Jamie Moyer signed with the Tigers. Doesn't ring a bell? That's because he wasn't the big league pitcher he is now, and he never made it to Detroit.
Twenty years later, it's the stuff of legend, because 1992 was the last season Moyer pitched without appearing in the Majors.
The left-hander was a 29-year-old finesse pitcher looking for a job after the Cubs released him at the end of Spring Training. The Tigers were looking for pitching depth at Triple-A Toledo after an injury opened a spot in the Mud Hens rotation. They called Moyer, who was waiting for a shot somewhere but took a shot in Toledo, not far from his then home in South Bend, Ind.
Moyer went 10-8 with a 2.86 ERA in 21 games, 20 of them starts, for the Hens. That included five complete games. He told the Toledo Blade's John Wagner years later that he learned lessons from that stint that helped him down the road, as well as picking up some much-needed confidence.
He did not earn a roster spot. With Frank Tanana still pitching in Detroit, the Tigers were reportedly reluctant to add another finesse lefty to their rotation. Both were gone by season's end.
Moyer signed with the Orioles that winter and went 6-0 at Triple-A Rochester to earn his opportunity in Baltimore. The rest is history.
Berry completes six-year trek to big leagues
CLEVELAND -- Quintin Berry had to spent six-plus years in the Minors to get his first chance in the Major Leagues. His first hit, a bunt double, had just as interesting of a journey.
"I was just trying to get it past [Indians first baseman Casey] Kotchman on the ground," Berry said after Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Indians. "And I got it over."
The popup cleared Kotchman, but that was just the first part of the hit. Once the ball skipped past Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, Berry was on base. Once Kipnis slipped trying to recover, Berry took off for second and ran into Kipnis, who was called for interference.
"That was just a messed up play," Kipnis said.
Said Berry: "I was just hoping it would get down. I didn't think it would get past him."
The play came hours after Berry arrived at Progressive Field from Triple-A Toledo, just an hour and a half by car to get to the big leagues at long last. It only felt like much longer than that.
"I was smiling all the way up here, and feeling like I was never going to get here," Berry said before making his big league debut on Wednesday against the Indians. "My wife was in the back. She had coffee and she was going, talking and smiling.
"It seemed like four or five hours. Every time somebody got in front of me, I was getting upset, trying not to go too fast."
Realistically, it was a six-year trip up to the big leagues for Berry, who was drafted in 2006 out of San Diego State. He bounced from the Phillies organization to the Padres and then to the Reds last year before signing with Detroit in the offseason.
He hoped that his speed and hitting would earn him a role with a hot start, but he couldn't have imagined getting a shot quite this soon. Austin Jackson's abdominal injury and potential trip to the disabled list created the need.
How long Berry stays depends on Jackson. If Jackson is ready to return by Friday, then Berry's role would seemingly be gone, rendering him the odd man out when Ryan Raburn returns from the bereavement list. If Jackson isn't ready by then, he could go on the disabled list, keeping Berry in the Majors for at least another week.
Alburquerque begins long-tossing in Florida
CLEVELAND -- Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque has begun long-tossing at the team's Spring Training facility in Lakeland, Fla., as he progresses closer to the goal of a return around the All-Star break.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Alburquerque, sidelined since last winter following elbow surgery, is throwing form about 150 feet.
"If he continues to progress, he should be cleared to resume throwing in the near future," Rand said.
Alburquerque remains on schedule, Rand said. If he can return anywhere close to last year's form, he would give the Tigers bullpen a boost with a high-strikeout arm for situational relief.
Tigers struggling to cut down basestealers
CLEVELAND -- The Tigers have two of the stingier catchers in the league in terms of allowing stolen bases. However, not all stolen bases are on the catcher, which might explain some of the running going on lately.
Among American League teams, only the Angels had allowed more stolen bases this season than the Tigers entering Wednesday. Opponents had swiped 35 bases in 47 attempts (74.5 percent) on Detroit, compared with 39 steals in 50 attempts (78 percent) off the Angels.
Percentage-wise, Detroit is closer to the middle of the pack. Still, the number of attempts shows opponents seeking an opportunity.
The Indians stole three bases in as many attempts in Tuesday's series opener. Two of them came against starter Rick Porcello, who has allowed four steals in as many tries over his last three starts after giving up just three in his first six outings.