Inside Pitch: Pudge Call Wasn't Easy

The Tigers elected to pick up the $13 million option - and it wasn't an easy call. But at the end of the day, Rodriguez is still one of the better catchers in the game, and with few alternatives, it made the decision a bit easier.

It was an expensive no-brainer for the Tigers to decide they wanted to continue having Ivan Rodriguez as their catcher.

After sizing up the alternatives -- and there weren't many -- Detroit decided it was more attractive to overpay a future Hall of Fame catcher than it would be to add "catcher" to this winter's Help Wanted sign and possibly wind up with a vastly inferior alternative behind the plate.

Although Detroit will pay Rodriguez $13 million next season, it essentially was a $10 million decision because the Tigers were on the hook for $3 million -- a buyout -- whether he caught for them or not. He was paid $10 million this year.

"We know he can still be an effective catcher next season," manager Jim Leyland said. "After that, we can get an idea of where his career is headed, and he can, too. This is a great deal for both sides."

Rodriguez has drawbacks. He's playing next season at 36. His power numbers are waning. A lot of pitched baseballs escaped him last year. His throwout percentage showed a sharp drop.

But that's balanced by the fact Rodriguez remains one of the game's elite catchers, surely bound for the Hall of Fame. Given his history of durability, it's highly probable he'll wind up catching more games than any other player in history.

Rodriguez hit .281 last season, and with a little more attention to his approach could continue being the lifetime .300 hitter that he is.

He is a workout fanatic, so conditioning will not be a problem, and Rodriguez still might be the fastest catcher in the game.

In the end, the Tigers felt being a viable contender meant having a top catcher behind the plate.

--C Ivan Rodriguez was worth another $10 million, Detroit decided Oct. 9. The Tigers, faced with a quick post-World Series deadline, picked up the $13 million option on Rodriguez for 2008 rather than pay him $3 million to walk and be forced to enter a weak market for catchers. "This was a major decision, and yet once the season ended, it became an easy one because we still think he's one of the top catchers overall in the game," Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski said. "He's done so much for the organization that there was no reason to leave it up in the air. Once we knew what we were doing, we didn't wait, and I called him."

--DH Gary Sheffield underwent successful surgery to remove bone fragments in his right shoulder on Oct. 8. During the operation, a previously undetected labrum tear was discovered and repaired. Sheffield should be able to swing a bat by spring training, Dr. John Uribe said. "It was a little more severe than the doctor expected," GM Dave Dombrowski said. "The doctor was amazed that Gary played with that much (pain) in the shoulder." Sheffield appeared in 14 games in the outfield this season, and in the last of them collided with 2B Placido Polanco, aggravating an old shoulder injury. The arm will remain in a sling for a month, and rehabilitation will take another two months.

--CF Curtis Granderson could be seen on television during the playoffs even though his Tigers did not qualify. Granderson was hired to be an analyst for TBS on its coverage of the AL Division Series.

"Curtis was on a short list of ours because of his charisma," TBS Sports senior producer Howard Zalkowitz said. "He's always a very good interview, very polished for a player at such a young age, but also very genuine. But we didn't anticipate the Tigers being out until the end of the regular season or the postseason."

The conclusion of the Division Series saw Granderson head to California to work with ESPN's crew for the Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Year Award presentation show. After that, he was slated to work from ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn., from Oct. 15-18, appearing on several shows.

"It'll be interesting," Granderson said of what could be a peek at a post-baseball career. "At first it didn't really seem like (a career move). I just thought it was a very interesting thing to do, to talk about the playoffs. Because before I got into (the majors), I watched that. Now more and more people are talking, saying this is the first step towards it if I want to do it. Hopefully I don't have to start thinking about it just yet. It would be great whenever my career does wind down."

"I think that Curtis with his postseason experience last year, both with his success and having difficulty in the postseason as well, will lend himself to a real good viewpoint," Zalkowitz said. "You never know if a good interview will translate into being a good (analyst). Hopefully he can do that. He's very serious about TV, and that's interesting."

--LHP Edward Campusano, a Rule 5 pick who never threw a regular-season pitch for Detroit due to elbow surgery, was returned to the Chicago Cubs on Oct. 10. Campusano, 25, had surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament March 27. He was waived by Detroit and outrighted to Chicago's Class AAA Iowa farm club. He showed promise early in spring training but never got a chance to make the Tigers because of his elbow.

--LHP Andrew Miller reported to Detroit's Instructional League base in Lakeland, Fla., but as of Oct. 11, he hadn't begun working on his mechanics as was hoped when the Tigers optioned him to the minors late in the season. Miller, 22, has been recuperating from patellar tendinitis. The Tigers wanted him to cut down on how much he throws across his body in his delivery and improve his breaking ball, two things he needs to do to sharpen his control.

--SS Cale Iorg, who received a $1.5 million signing bonus as Detroit's sixth-round draft choice, has cut short his assignment in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball league due to a hamstring injury. Iorg has returned to the Tigers' spring training base for treatment. Detroit is expected to replace him with second-round selection SS Danny Worth, who performed well in his pro debut at Class A Lakeland.

BY THE NUMBERS: $81 million -- Money the Tigers have committed to 12 players with the announcement the club was picking up C Ivan Rodriguez's $13 million option for 2008.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "People just throw around other options like you can get anybody to catch, but there are not a lot of future Hall of Famers available. To me, this was a no-brainer, and I'm tickled to death to have him back. It eases our mind to know who our catcher is going to be next year. That's one less headache for us right now." -- Manager Jim Leyland on the news Detroit is exercising its $13 million option to have C Ivan Rodriguez return next year.

Shoring up the rotation is the chief task ahead for the Tigers in the offseason, with the acquisition of a new shortstop next on the list. There's a small list of shortstops available, so it's probable Detroit will have to dip into its pool of minor league pitching to get something done on that front. The Tigers would like LHP Kenny Rogers to come back, which would mean they would only have to get one starter. They prefer to have their top prospects open the season in the minors. A southpaw-swinging left fielder with some thump would be nice, but Detroit would accept opening the season with a platoon of Marcus Thames and Timo Perez in left.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Tigers are seeking a starting pitcher -- two if LHP Kenny Rogers decides not to return -- plus a solid defensive shortstop (who can provide a little offense) so the club can effect its decision to make Carlos Guillen its regular first baseman. A veteran closer will also be needed if free agent RHP Todd Jones decides to pitch elsewhere.

FREE AGENTS: LHP Kenny Rogers, RHP Todd Jones, 1B Sean Casey, INF Neifi Perez.

Rogers will decide in November, when he turns 43, whether he wants to pitch next season, and he likely would re-sign with Detroit if that's the case. Jones has told Detroit he'll sign a one-year deal and it wants him back, but Atlanta might enter the picture because it's close to his home. Casey has already been told he won't be offered a 2008 contract, and Perez won't be back, either.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Bobby Seay, LHP Nate Robertson, RHP Chad Durbin, UT Omar Infante, SS Ramon Santiago, OF Marcus Thames, OF Timo Perez.

GM Dave Dombrowski likes to avoid arbitration and probably will try to get each signed to a one- or two-year deal before the deadline. Robertson will be expensive, but it's going to get done.

IN LIMBO: UT Omar Infante is probably headed elsewhere if Detroit obtains the shortstop it wants. RHP Chad Durbin's status could be contingent upon whether RHP Todd Jones comes back. OF Timo Perez had a hot September and might have limited market value. RHP Jose Capellan is one of many Tiger pitchers who is out of options and thus subject to inclusion in a deal. 3B/1B Mike Hessman showed power and Detroit talked him up, perhaps hoping to enhance his market value.

DH Gary Sheffield (right shoulder surgery in October 2007) should be able to hit by the start of spring training, but he might need more time before he starts throwing.

C Vance Wilson (Tommy John surgery in June 2007) hopes to be able to throw well sometime in the spring.

RHP Jeremy Bonderman (right elbow strain) was shut down in late September; rest is his prescription.

LHP Kenny Rogers (sore left elbow) ended the season pitching with an elbow that wasn't 100 percent, but rest is the cure.

RF Magglio Ordonez (sore left heel) just needs to keep off his foot to be ready to go in the spring.

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