The mysterious Chad Durbin has been called upon to replace the disabled Kenny Rogers in the startuing rotation for the Tigers. Based upon what I've been reading on the internet the past couple of days, this is a surprise to just about everyone other than Lynn Henning of the Detroit News who has been promoting Durbin since last summer. Others are wondering why they did not turn to Zach Miner or Wil Ledezma who both did a pretty good job filling in for the injured Mike Maroth last year. Some want to know why young Andrew Miller was not thrown into the fire. According to Jim Leyland, they actually did consider Miller but they decided to go with Durbin.
Who is this Durbin guy? He is a 6-2 208 pound 29 year old right-hander who started 28 games for Toledo last year. In 185 innings for the Mudhens, he showed good control with a 149/46 strikeout/walk ratio and posted a 3.11 ERA. He then appeared briefly for the Tigers in September allowing 1 run in 6 innings. This spring, he continued to pitch well compiling a 2.08 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. His good spring earned him a spot on the team but many figured he would serve mostly as a mop up man in blow outs.
It's been a long journey on the way to Detroit for Durbin. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the third round of the 1996 amateur draft and was considered one of the best Royal prospects in the late 1990s. He had a low 90s fastball and a hard curve but his best pitch was his change-up which was considered one of the best in the game. He reached the majors at age 21 but was hit hard as his fastball was too straight and his curve too inconsistent for major league batters. His best year was in 2002 when he had a 4.93 ERA in 179 innings pitched.
After the 2002 season, he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery and quickly fell off the prospect map. between 2003 and 2005, he bounced around to three different organizations - Cleveland, Arizona and Washington - and showed little progress. Finally, the Tigers signed him to a minor league contract before the 2006 season and good things began to happen. Pitching coach Jeff Jones worked with him on developing a two seam fastball and a cutter. He mastered them fairly quickly and they worked better for him than his very hittable four seam fastball.
He pitched like a new pitcher in AAA last year but will he be a new major league pitcher or will he be the pitcher who has a 6.13 lifetime ERA for four organizations? Many are still skeptical and he has to be considered a long shot for success. However, Tigers management selected him over some pretty decent candidates and they have shown that they know something about pitching. One way or the other, we'll all find out more about Durbin very soon.