Nomadic Dotel seeks second straight Series title
Playing for MLB-record 13th club, righty valuable piece of Tigers' bullpen
DETROIT -- Reliever Octavio Dotel latched on to catcher Gerald Laird during Thursday night's celebration after the Tigers swept the Yankees to move on to the World Series.
"Take a picture of the World [Series] champions!" shouted Dotel, as media members flocked around the two, embracing.
No, the Tigers are not World Series champions -- at least not yet. However, Dotel and Laird share that common bond as part of the Cardinals' remarkable 2011 title run.
"Me and Dotel, we've been hugging each other because it's just special," said Laird after the Tigers' 8-1 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. "Like, last year, we thought it was the most unbelievable moment of our lives, and then we get a chance to do it again and it's even better."
The two earned it, and perhaps especially Dotel, a journeyman who has spent most of his career on the move, bouncing around from city to city.
In fact, Dotel set a Major League record this season when he debuted for the Tigers on April 7 against the Red Sox. In his 14th year, he made an appearance for his 13th team. No big leaguer had played for more than 12.
And no big leaguer experienced quite the same bad luck year after year. Through his first 12 seasons and 11 teams, not once did Dotel pitch in the World Series. Not once did the 38-year-old even pitch past a Division Series.
Now he's bound for his second Fall Classic in as many years.
"This is unbelievable, man," Dotel said. "To go back-to-back and to be in the World Series, this is something priceless that doesn't happen very often."
Dotel knew the rare occurrence deserved a rare celebration. No one in the clubhouse screamed louder or jumped higher. No one emptied more champagne bottles. And when family members trickled in and everyone drifted to a corner or to find a seat, Dotel remained bouncing around.
"This is unbelievable," he said again. "This is a great feeling. This is something priceless. You don't say that often. Hopefully we go all the way through."
For Dotel, what's most interesting is that unlike many players in his situation of constantly changing teams, he's a valuable asset, especially in Detroit's bullpen.
There are three others in history to play for 12 teams. Pitchers Mike Morgan, Ron Villone and outfielder/first baseman Matt Stairs. Morgan, a starter, had a career record of 141-186 and 4.23 ERA. Villone owned a career 4.73 ERA. And Stairs was a career .262 hitter.
Taking nothing away from their careers, but Dotel's career ERA is 3.73, which includes 34 starts in his first three years in the Majors. The right-hander also had a 3.28 ERA for St. Louis and a 3.57 ERA in Detroit as the seventh-inning specialist, despite the bullpen often being in flux.
Setup man Joaquin Benoit had trouble with the long ball -- allowing the most home runs among AL relievers (14) -- and closer Jose Valverde occasionally fell apart. Dotel, though, remained consistent.
"He's been a huge part of our bullpen," Laird said.
Depending on how the NLCS shapes out, Dotel and Laird could both be competing against their former team -- the same team they won their title with last year.
"That would be exciting for me and G-Money," Dotel said.
However, for Dotel facing a former team isn't something uncommon. The Tigers beat the A's, whom he spent two years playing for, and the Yankees, whom he spent a year playing for, to make it this far. So it would be fitting.
But regardless of whom the Tigers face, Dotel hopes to continue his hot streak. And he also hopes that this season's journey will pay off with one more ring.
"Hopefully we'll do what we need to do," Dotel said. "We need to win four more. We've got four more to go, so hopefully things go the way we're looking for."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.