Lucky 13: Dotel enjoying latest squad
Settling into Detroit, journeyman reliever has pitched for nearly half the teams in MLB
Octavio Dotel projected a discernible hesitancy.
"I can do it in order," he said. "I think."
Dotel rattled off the Mets, Astros, A's, Yankees, Royals and Braves before reaching a roadblock.
"Ummmm," he said, before eight seconds of silence elapsed. "Chicago White Sox. Pittsburgh. The Dodgers. Colorado."
Another 10 seconds passed, interrupted by a series of filler words.
"Toronto," Dotel continued. "St. Louis. Detroit.
It only took 43 seconds for the Tigers reliever, the epitome of a Major League nomad, to recite all 13 organizations for which he has played. Call him a vagrant, a transient, a journeyman -- he takes pride in his litany of relocations.
"I'm proud," Dotel said. "I'm happy about it."
Dotel sits atop the list of players who have suited up for the most franchises, ahead of Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs and Ron Villone, who each donned the uniforms of 12 teams. Miguel Batista, the 42-year-old pitcher who signed a Minor League contract with the Blue Jays last week, ranks second among active players.
"That is crazy. I can't imagine that," said Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter. "I think I probably would've taken it to the house by now. But he loves the game. It's fun, so I could see why he's with his 13th team."
As of Sunday, there were 868 players in the big leagues, including those suspended or on the disabled list. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Dotel has appeared in the same game with 199 of them, or 23 percent. According to Baseball Reference, Dotel has shared a clubhouse with 648 teammates during his 15-year Major League career.
"I know at least one player on every team in baseball right now," Dotel said.
Dotel has played in all six MLB divisions. He has been a member of a team based in each of the four time zones in the continental U.S. Dotel has toed the rubber at 39 big league ballparks. He has thrown to 39 catchers. Dotel's pitches have been deemed balls or strikes by 105 umpires.
"He still has good stuff," Hunter said. "I didn't like facing him. I'm pretty sure that's why teams want him."
Hunter isn't just appeasing his 39-year-old cohort. The durable right-hander totes a career 3.73 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and Dotel could arrive at 1,000 innings by season's end.
Dotel's transaction history reads like a map for a Carmen Sandiego goose chase. He has been traded six times and has latched on with six organizations via free agency, not including his original commitment to the Mets in 1993. Two decades later, Dotel's travels have taken him as far west as Oakland, as far east as New York, as far north as Toronto and as far south as Houston. How he hasn't been sought after by airlines as the face of a frequent-flyer program remains one of baseball's unsolved mysteries.
In December 1999, the Mets dealt Dotel to Houston, where he spent nearly five years, his longest Major League tenure with any franchise. When the Astros traded Dotel in the summer of 2004, it sparked a trend of constant movement. The shuffling reached a crescendo in 2010, when the Pirates -- who signed him to a one-year deal that January -- sent him to the Dodgers prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Los Angeles forwarded him on to Colorado seven weeks later. Four months after that, Dotel joined the Blue Jays as a free agent. Toronto then included him in an eight-player swap with St. Louis in July 2011.
Dotel won his first World Series ring with the Cardinals, a long-coveted reward for the years of logistical complications the constant migration inflicted upon him and his wife, Massiel.
"She's the one that has to do all of the packing," Dotel said. "Sometimes I get traded when I'm on the road, and she has to pack by herself and move from one city to another city. It's been more difficult for her, with all of the traveling. For me, it's easier, because when I get traded while on the road, I only have one suitcase."
Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay is with his fifth team since 2010. The 36-year-old said he would prefer to stay in one place, but understands the nature of the game. Overbay isn't eyeing Dotel's record, but he acknowledges his recent pace.
"I don't know about [catching him]," Overbay said. "Though at the rate I'm going, I probably will."
On Dec. 9, 2011, Dotel signed a two-year pact with the Tigers. He hopes to sport the "Olde English D" on his hat for the remainder of his career. That doesn't mean Dotel is pondering retirement, though.
"I'm not going to go away from this game," Dotel said. "I'm going to let them take me away. If somebody needs something from me, I'm going to be there."
Hunter suggested that the limber-armed reliever stick around long enough to heighten the standard he has established.
"He should try to play for at least 15 teams," Hunter said, "so he can say he played for half."