12/17/10 8:41 PM EST
Magglio returns to Detroit on one-year deal
By Scott Merkin and Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Once Ordonez joined the conversation, Tigers president and general manager David Dombrowski delivered a brief but humorous message to his right fielder.
"You made my holiday," said Dombrowski, drawing a laugh from Ordonez, who quickly added how the Tigers also made his holiday a good one.
An official announcement of Ordonez's one-year contract worth $10 million came on Friday, one day after news broke that Ordonez and the Tigers had agreed to terms. Detroit declined Ordonez's $15 million option in October, but the club wanted the six-time All-Star back if he appeared to be healthy after breaking his right ankle in July, which required season-ending surgery.
Ordonez, who turns 37 next month, has a career .312 batting average, 289 homers and 1,204 RBIs over 14 seasons with the Tigers and White Sox. Last season, Ordonez hit .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 84 games for Detroit before suffering the fracture in his ankle on July 25.
According to Scott Boras, Ordonez's representative who also was present on Friday's conference call, the Tigers were Ordonez's primary objective for 2011 employment when this whole process began. Ordonez apparently left multi-year deals on the table, although Boras would not go into specifics when asked.
"We are thrilled to have Magglio back with us," Dombrowski said. "It completes the everyday lineup for our ballclub, and by adding Magglio back and to be in a position to have Victor [Martinez] join us, all of a sudden the middle of our lineup puts us in a good position."
"I like the organization, my teammates, the owner. I like everything around the Detroit Tigers," Ordonez said. "And I want to be comfortable. At this stage of my career, I don't want to bounce around cities and make new teammates. I want to be in Detroit with my teammates and my team, and try to finish my career with the Tigers."
Last week, the Tigers watched Ordonez move around on the surgically repaired ankle in a private workout session in central Florida, close to where the Winter Meetings took place in Lake Buena Vista. Boras said earlier this offseason that the injury had healed, allowing Ordonez to resume normal workouts.
Dombrowski was not present at the workout. But Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand watched Ordonez go through a thorough physical test involving running, cutting and pulling the sled.
"He went through a lot of different things, and he looked 100 percent," said Dombrowski, adding how Ordonez looks to be in phenomenal physical condition. "There was no limp or pain whatsoever."
This particular injury underscores a few of the main reasons for Ordonez's loyalty to the Tigers. It was the Tigers who gave Ordonez a chance to continue playing baseball in 2005, via a five-year, $75 million deal along with 2010 and 2011 options, after an injury-plagued 2004 campaign left him limited to 202 at-bats during his eighth and final year with the White Sox.
That deal paid off for the Tigers when Ordonez helped the team reach the World Series in 2006, hitting the walk-off home run against Oakland to clinch the American League pennant. Ordonez followed up that effort with a Most Valuable Player-caliber performance in 2007, winning the AL batting title with a .363 average.
But this 2010 injury suffered by Ordonez truly points up the connection between the right fielder and Tigers owner Mike Illitch, referred to as "Mr. I" during much of the conference call. Boras told a story of how Illitch made a special trip to the clubhouse after Ordonez suffered his season-ending ankle injury and told Ordonez how he would be fine, it was just a minor mishap and how the Tigers would invite him back in 2011.
"When you get that commitment and support from an owner, it weighs heavily on the decision making process," Boras said.
"First of all, the fans have been really good to me, but so has Mr. Illitch and the entire organization," Ordonez said. "When you have an organization committed to building a winning team, you want to be there. I'm just excited to be back to Detroit."
Ordonez likely would return to the No. 3 spot in manager Jim Leyland's lineup for the 2011 season, batting in front of Miguel Cabrera and allowing the recently acquired Martinez to fill the fifth spot in the order. Martinez's presence behind the plate also will allow Ordonez to move from right field to designated hitter from time to time.
Since joining the Tigers in 2005, Ordonez has batted .318. Last season, Ordonez became the sixth Venezuelan to reach the 2,000-hit milestone, joining Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Andres Galarraga, Dave Concepcion and Bobby Abreu. Ordonez is second among all players in Major League history from Venezuela with a .312 batting average and 289 home runs, while he is third with 1,204 RBIs.
No glaring 2011 needs were listed by Dombrowski for his team to fill, but he did say the organization would be in a listening mode because there's always a chance to get better. Having Ordonez back certainly makes the Tigers an even stronger AL Central title contender, along with the Twins and White Sox.
"I'm very pleased everything worked out for the team and myself," Ordonez said. "Hopefully we will come back to where we were for the 2006 season. I know we have a good team."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen and follow him on twitter at @scottmerkin. Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.