07/11/2004 9:26 PM ET
Silver lining for Ledezma
Hurler going back to Detroit after break
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- There's a reason why it's called the All-Star Futures Game. For Tigers prospect Wilfredo Ledezma, the future came sooner than he thought.
|Wilfredo Ledezma earned a trip back to the Tigers on Sunday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Ledezma took the hard-luck loss for the World Team on Sunday thanks to a two-run error, but he won a return to Detroit as Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski announced just before Ledezma took the mound for his inning of relief that he would join the team Thursday at Comerica Park and pitch out of the bullpen.
The return to Detroit, where Ledezma spent all of last season as a Rule 5 draft selection, caps a dominant first half for the 23-year-old left-hander at Double-A Erie. He went 10-3 for the Seawolves with a 2.42 ERA, allowing 95 hits over 111 2/3 innings with 98 strikeouts.
His name kept popping up as a possible solution for Detroit's inconsistent pitching staff, but the team hesitated to call him up. As it turned out, the combination of a high innings count and an obvious need for relief help set up his return to the Major Leagues.
"We felt for a while that he could pitch here, that he could help us," Dombrowski said. "We didn't have a need starting, and we didn't want to put him in the bullpen too early because we wanted him to continue to work on his breaking ball. But now we've reached a point where with our needs and with the number of innings that he has, that we're ready to go ahead and do that."
The Tigers want to limit Ledezma to about 150 innings this year. Placing him in the bullpen for the second half, Dombrowski said, allows the Detroit coaching staff to watch that mark while helping him work on his game in hopes of winning a rotation spot in 2005. Dombrowski also cautioned that if a rotation spot opened up due to injury or trade, he'd be considered.
Ledezma's success with his sharper curveball and changeup, plus the addition of a two-seam fastball, are viewed as the most important improvements he's made since being sent to Erie during Spring Training. He used his mid-90s fastball, change and sometimes nasty curve to success at times for the Tigers in 2003.
In fact, he was in Detroit's rotation a year ago at this point. He shut out the Red Sox for seven innings in the final game before last year's All-Star break. His struggles with secondary pitches caught up with him, however, and he was sent back to the bullpen by August.
Not surprisingly, he feels he's more prepared for the Majors the second time around.
"I've got more experience this year," he said. "More consistency. I feel great."
Plus, the Tigers have a better team right now. Asked if it was better winning at Erie this year or taking losses at Detroit last year, Ledezma simply smiled.
Sunday might have been the first time since his Tigers days last season that he took a hard-luck loss. He gave up two singles but also struck out highly-touted Delmon Young. He used an inside fastball to induce a fly ball from B.J. Upton, but right fielder Shin-Soo Choo couldn't handle it. The miscue brought in two runs for a lead the U.S. team wouldn't relinquish.
"I think I pitched well," he said, "because I think I threw all my pitches when I wanted."
Soon after, Dombrowski met Ledezma with the news. "I'm happy," he said.
To make room for Ledezma, the Tigers optioned right-handed reliever Franklyn German back to Triple-A Toledo. German gave up eight runs, five earned, in 4 1/3 innings while walking six in his continuing battle to control his fastball.
"I see him as a young guy who's having trouble getting over the hump right now," Dombrowski said. "We still like him a great deal. He's pitched great at Triple-A, dominated there. He's just had a hard time getting over the hump. I've seen it happen with a bunch of young guys. You keep hoping it's the last time you have to [option him], but it's not."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.