Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tigers take chance on Grilli

According to their website, the Tigers signed former White Sox pitcher Jason Grilli to a minor-league deal.

Grilli was the recipient of a lot of nice lip services this winter from Sox GM Kenny Williams before Williams landed Orlando Hernandez. If the Sox hadn’t signed El Duque, Grilli probably would have been the front-runner for the Sox fifth starter job.

For all the nice things the Sox organization said about him, Grilli just plain sucked last year. His ERA was 7.40 in 45 innings for the Sox last year, all coming in eight starts. If you imagine what he would have done over a whole season by stretching his stats in those 45 innings into 180 innings (4 times), he would have walked almost 100 men and given up almost 50 home runs, all while batters hit him at nearly a .300 clip.

Grilli also didn’t show much at Charlotte, posting an ERA close to 5.00 over 152 innings. Despite his early departure, he led the Knights in hits allowed, walks allow, home runs allowed, runs allowed and earned runs allowed.

The Sox must have been serious about starting him in the fifth slot since they talked him up through most of the winter, but it’s hard to see how Felix Diaz wasn’t a better option. Yes, Diaz was hammered in Chicago (6.75 ERA), but he did post a 2.97 ERA in Charlotte, and he is still just 23-years-old. Grilli turned 28 in Novermeber.

The Hernandez signing made it a moot point, so Diaz probably spends this year in the bullpen and Grilli either slides into Detroit’s staff, where Comerica Park could shave a run or two off his ERA by forgiving some of his flaws, or he spends the summer as a Toledo Mud Hen.

The Grilli experiment didn’t work out so well, but the Sox should still be applauded for trying to land some talent from a non-conventional source. Williams picked him up in last year’s Rule 5 draft, and while he didn’t have the star potential many thought he had early in his career as a Giants and Marlins prospect, he could have been useful. There’s nothing wrong with taking a flier on a guy to see if your coaches can do something with him. It didn’t work out this time, but it was worth a try.

Good luck to Grilli in Detroit.

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