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11/14/08 1:29 PM EST

Tigers counting on McBride to be ready

With lefty not yet eligible for arbitration, team agrees to early deal

DETROIT -- While the Tigers step up their efforts to remake their bullpen on the Hot Stove market, they're set to get at least one relief option back next spring with Macay McBride's recovery from elbow surgery.

The young left-hander and the Tigers agreed to terms on a one-year contract, agent B.B. Abbott confirmed. One year away from becoming eligible for salary arbitration, McBride wasn't much of a threat for a contract dispute, but the timing of the deal was a sign that the Tigers expect him to be healthy and ready to compete for a spot in Detroit's revamped bullpen next spring.

The Tigers tried to convert McBride into a starter last spring, sending him to Triple-A Toledo to open the season with that intent. He pitched only one inning in his first appearance for the Mud Hens before leaving with discomfort in his left elbow, which turned out to be a torn ligament leading to Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Recovery from Tommy John surgery usually takes 9-12 months, but McBride is currently on the aggressive end of that timetable. He's currently stretching out his arm in long toss and rebuilding strength, Abbott said, and McBride's on track to throw off of a mound in January.

He's far enough along that team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has started to include him among the in-house candidates for Detroit's bullpen, which the Tigers would like to feature two left-handed relievers. Dombrowski expects Bobby Seay to fill one of those spots and has listed McBride and Clay Rapada as candidates for the other.

The Tigers have made contact with agents for some of the free-agent left-handers on the market, such as Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes. That void, however, takes a back seat to filling the closer's spot.

That need, plus McBride's recovery from injury, puts his future as a starter on hold, likely long term. It also provided McBride motivation to sign now rather than wait until the spring.

Hot Stove

"We wanted to just to go ahead and get him locked in," Abbott said Friday, "and hopefully get him in a position to make that team out of Spring Training. They wanted to get him signed early, being out of options."

McBride will make a standard $400,000 salary if he spends the year in the big leagues, while the split contract allows him a $113,300 salary if he's sent to the Minors. Since he's out of Minor League options, though, he would have to clear waivers and be outrighted. At age 26 and with a well-regarded arm before surgery, he'd be a likely waiver claim for some club.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.