Urbina to Return in 2005

After signing closer Ugueth Urbina in spring training to bolster a bullpen that appeared to be struggling, the Tigers have decided that Urbina did well enough in 2004 to warrant returning in 2005. This, despite the fact that Urbina remains in his native Venezuela, still waiting for a resolution concerning the kidnapping of his mother. In other news, another former closer will not be back, plus who took the Writers' Tiger of the Year award?

After the first few weeks of spring training, it was obvious the Tigers bullpen needed more than what they had. Enter the fold; Ugueth Urbina.

It's typically rare for a player of Urbina's caliber to be available so late in the year - but after not receiving the long term deal he wanted in the early free agent period, Urbina elected to wait it out until spring training for a team to come calling.

That team came to be the Tigers, after the Cleveland Indians were hesitant to sign him because of concerns of how long it would take him to get ready to pitch competitively. The Tigers had no such concerns, and Urbina provided exactly the role they needed.

Through the first five months of the season, Urbina pitched very well for the Tigers, including converting 21 of 24 save opportunities. However, Urbina's season came to an abrupt end after the tragic kidnapping of his mother in his native Venezuela. The situation is still unresolved, but through his agent, Urbina has conveyed that he will be ready to go come spring training.

So, with that in mind, the Tigers, who had to make a decision by Saturday, elected to exercise their $4 million option on Urbina. Had they not exercised the option, they would have needed to buy the deal out for $500,000.

And while Urbina will be returning, one who won't is former closer Matt Anderson. The Tigers declined his option for 2005, instead paying him the $400,000 buyout, making Anderson a free agent. Anderson showed so much promise, but after an arm injury took his velocity, he could no longer compete without a legitimate 2nd pitch.

PUDGE WINS TIGER OF THE YEAR: On Thursday, the Detroit Chpater of the Baseball Writers Association gave their yearly Tiger of the Year award to Catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez became the team's biggest free agent acquisition in its history when he signed a 4-year, $40 million deal. Rodriguez led all American League catchers with a .337 batting average. Rodriguez also won his 11th Gold Glove, and was chosen to play in his 11th All Star game back in July. Dmitri Young won the award in 2003 after his breakout year on an otherwise down club.

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