When pitcher Zach Miner was not tendered a contract by the Detroit Tigers in early December, most indications were that the two sides would eventually reach a new agreement.
The Tigers wanted him back, and Miner wanted to return. But with Miner working his way back from reconstructive elbow surgery, it was just more likely that he would sign a minor-league deal to try and make the team in Spring Training.
Despite missing the entire 2010 season, however, other teams still showed interest in Miner. And an AL Central rival ended up making him a better offer.
Miner signed a minor-league deal with the Kansas City Royals on Friday, citing a better long-term opportunity.
“There were a few teams that checked in, and the Tigers and the Royals were the most aggressive,” Miner wrote in an e-mail to MLB.com. “But in the end, we just felt like K.C. was going to be a very good opportunity going forward, not only for this year, but for a few years down the road.”
From Miner’s point of view, that “very good opportunity” is probably being given a chance to pitch as a starter. The Tigers liked him better coming out of the bullpen. Manager Jim Leyland, especially, seemed to prefer utilizing Miner’s sinker in key late-inning situations when a ground ball was needed.
The numbers say the Tigers may have been right. Miner had a lower ERA as a reliever (3.60) than starter (4.85), and struck out slightly more batters per nine innings (5.9 to 5.1). But he walked more batters in relief (86 to 59), which makes you wonder if may have been better suited for the pace of starting, rather than face immediate pressure coming out of the bullpen.
With Miner staying in the AL Central, Tigers fans may still get to see whether or not he’s ultimately better as a starting pitcher.
In his four seasons with Detroit, Miner finished with a 25-20 record and 4.24 ERA in 157 appearances (35 of them starts). He came to the Tigers (along with Roman Colon) in a 2005 trade with the Atlanta Braves for reliever Kyle Farnsworth.