With four established pitchers set in the rotation, the Tigers had an opening for a fifth starter.
Early in camp, Andy Oliver established himself as one of the leading candidates to claim a spot in the rotation. Long on talent, Oliver had been a perplexing combination of top-of-the-rotation stuff and stifling control issues.
With a strong camp, it appeared that Oliver would win the job and finally crack the rotation. Then Oliver's nemesis returned. He walked five batters in 3 2/3 innings in a late-camp start against the Twins, and soon after, he was sent to minor league camp. Drew Smyly would eventually win the fifth spot and showed enough in his rookie season to excite the Tigers.
For Oliver, it was disappointing ending to a promising start. Pitching Coach Jeff Jones had streamlined his delivery, making the same changes he made to Justin Verlander's motion two years earlier.
In other words, the Tigers felt they did all they could to get Oliver to the big leagues. He went 5-8 with a 4.88 ERA at Toledo this season. As Dave Dombrowski said today, perhaps a change of scenery is best.
In return, the Tigers received minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera. Cabrera is a career .292 hitter in five minor league seasons and had an OBP of .360. Defensively, he has thrown out 22% of base stealers in his career.
With Gerald Laird leaving for free agent dollars in Atlanta, Cabrera gives the Tigers added catching depth in the organization. Alex Avila remains the starter and Bryan Holaday is slated to take over Laird's old spot as the backup.
It also gives Oliver a chance at a new start.