Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tigers Promote Al Alburquerque, Option Robbie Weinhardt back to Toledo

Sometimes I write posts that, just from the titles, I know I'm not going to enjoy typing up. With names like Alberto Alburquerque (which I have to slowly and deliberately type each time) and Robbie Weinhardt involved, this is one of them. That's just too many surname syllables for me.

In the wake of the loses of Joel Zumaya who was projected to be the opening day 7th inning reliever, and Ryan Perry who would've shared in those duties, the team finds itself in search of reliable options out of the 'pen. So far the team has tried Daniel Schlereth, but they seem to prefer him as a left-on-lefty option, and Brayan Villarreal but they still don't seem satisfied.

So enters the 25 year old Alburquerque who's path to Detroit has been an interesting one. Initially signed out of the Dominican as a 20 year old by the Cubs in 2006, he was released by the Cubs in 2009, latched on with the Rockies for the remainder of the '09 season, and then pitched for the organization again in 2010. After finding himself a Minor League free agent for the second time in his career, the Tigers signed him during winter ball.

In doing so they were taking a chance that his power arm could prove useful out of the bullpen. While he didn't make make the team out of spring training, his first four innings at AAA - in which he struck out eight while walking just one - impressed the team enough to give him his first shot at the Majors.

Alburquerque works in the 94-95mph range with his fastball and mixes in a hard, tight slider. He's more of a thrower than a pitcher and lacks the command necessary to be an elite bullpen pitcher, even with his plus arm. Despite that, he has a career MiLB K rate of 10.0 and some of that ability to miss bats should translate to the Majors. His problem, as always, will be avoiding walks.

Weinhardt is being sent down after yet another abbreviated opportunity to prove he belongs with the big league squad. I find this unfortunate and perhaps an over-reaction by the Tigers coaching staff to small sample sizes. During his tenure in the Majors he's shown that his ground ball tendencies can translate at the MLB level. And while he's struggled to miss as many bats as he did in the Minors, his stuff suggests the possibility for more.

Hopefully at some point in the near future he'll get a more extended look because while he may not fit the profile of the typical Tigers pitcher (he doesn't work in the mid 90s) his stuff is good enough to be a quality Major League reliever.

In the meantime however the Tigers will roll the dice with the hard throwing, command impaired Alburquerque. A pitcher no one else thought was worthy of keeping though they could've done so for a pittance. Hopefully they've found something in him that other teams somehow missed.

Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both,, and He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.


  1. Bryan Vallarreal (another name you should enjoy typing out...) is I believe who you mean, not Brayan Pena.

  2. The Tigers need to trade Albuquerque to the Dodgers so they can send him down to AAA! He would be celebrated with the Isotopes. What can we do to make this happen?

  3. Of course Michael. This is the curse of having two Brayan's in the same division.

  4. Weinhardt just didn't seem to have a place on the staff. Personally, I'd have rather they kept him up in a long relief role, and sent either Brad Thomas or Enrique Gonzalez down. I guess Thomas stays because he's one of only two lefthanders in the pen, but Gonzalez is a mystery to me. I don't see what he brings to the table.