MINNEAPOLIS -- Max St. Pierre is finally coming to the big leagues. He won't be the most glamorous September callup in the Majors, but he might well be the happiest.
After 978 games over 14 Minor League seasons, 13 of them in the same organization, the longtime Tigers farmhand will join the big club as an extra catcher when rosters expand on Wednesday. The club confirmed the move after Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Twins, ending a quest that has taken up nearly half of St. Pierre's life.
For St. Pierre, the move is a dream finally fulfilled not only after years of trying, but years of questioning whether it would ever happen. The Quebec native began his pro career as a 17-year-old in 1997 with little knowledge of English, but a strong arm and a knowledge of catching. He joined the organization a year before Brandon Inge, the current longest-serving Tigers player, and a year after Alan Trammell retired. He began playing pro ball when current Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello was an 8-year-old.
No current Tigers player has been in the organization longer.
"Just for his determination and persistence to tough it out, I'm very pleased to see him get up here and for the organization to stick with a guy like that and give him a reward," Inge said. "That's awesome. That's a great story."
With the exception of one year in the Brewers organization, where coaches tried to convert him into a pitcher, he has been in the Tigers' system ever since. Now 30, he has made no secret that he kept going for a chance to get to the Majors. He has been a regular with the Tigers in Spring Training, but has never spent a day on the Major League roster.
That is set to change. The Tigers confirmed they will purchase his contract from Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday and have him here in time for that night's game against the Twins. With Gerald Laird still day-to-day with a strained back, it's possible St. Pierre could catch in the game.
"You're very happy for him," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "Sometimes when we take things for granted, when you're around it for somebody like that, it's an absolute thrill of a lifetime, because they've worked so hard to get here, never giving up, battling on a consistent basis. It's great to see a guy like that rewarded. He's earned it. He's had a good year."
St. Pierre received the news just after his first at-bat Tuesday night for Triple-A Toledo. It was a single that raised his average for the Mud Hens to .300. A day earlier, he had a two-homer game to give him 10 home runs on the season between Toledo and Double-A Erie.
When he got word from Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish, he barely knew how to react.
"I felt great, but this hasn't really registered yet," St. Pierre told the Toledo Blade. "I have chill bumps all over. My whole career, I've been working hard to get to the Major Leagues, and now I'm going to be there. I'm speechless."
Bonderman set to make return Friday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeremy Bonderman appears set to make his turn in the Tigers' rotation on Friday after throwing off the mound in the visitors' bullpen at Target Field on Tuesday afternoon.
Bonderman missed his last scheduled start Saturday in Toronto with inflammation around his right rib cage. Alfredo Figaro started in his place and was on call to start Friday if Bonderman can't go. However, Bonderman said that as long as he feels fine Wednesday morning, he'll be ready.
Bonderman said over the weekend that the tightness flared up on him in his last start Aug. 23 against the Royals, but he was able to finish out his performance with six innings of two-run ball for his first win in nearly three weeks.
Bonderman is 2-0 against the Twins this season, including a quality start in their last meeting on July 10 at Comerica Park, so it should be a boost if he can go.
Ruffin one of seven Tigers to go to AFL
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chance Ruffin's first professional pitches will come in the Arizona Fall League. The 48th overall pick in June's First-Year Player Draft was named as one of seven Tigers to the AFL rosters.
Joining him will be fellow pitchers Matt Hoffman, Brendan Wise and Brooks Brown, slugging prospect Ryan Strieby, shortstop prospect Cale Iorg and Class A infielder Francisco Martinez.
Ruffin was the Tigers' second pick in the first round, a compensation pick Detroit received for losing reliever Brandon Lyon to Houston in free agency. He'll be following in the footsteps of Andy Oliver, a first-rounder last year who went to the AFL and used it as a springboard to Double-A Erie this spring and eventually to Detroit's rotation in June.
Like Oliver, the Tigers decided Ruffin was advanced enough as a prospect to warrant the call. Unlike Oliver, Ruffin is a reliever, having been tested in the bullpen at the University of Texas.
"The thing is, he has to be advanced enough to pitch at that level," said Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila.
Strieby was on track to take his bat to the AFL last year before a season-ending wrist injury kept him out. Another injury to left hand cut short his season at Triple-A Toledo this year, too, but he's expected to be ready by the time league play begins Oct. 12. He batted .245 for the Mud Hens this year, with 15 doubles, 10 home runs and 49 RBIs -- a sharp drop from his .303 average, 19 homers and 58 RBIs a year ago at Double-A Erie.
Iorg got back to Arizona for a second year on the strength of a late-season surge that had him batting .295 in 11 games for Triple-A Toledo with four doubles, one homer and eight RBIs. A strong fall campaign could get him the 40-man roster spot and Spring Training invite he needs to compete with Danny Worth for the future at shortstop in Detroit.
Leyland: Tigers not out of race just yet
MINNEAPOLIS -- By Jim Leyland's usual definition of five games or closer at the start of September, the Tigers are not in the middle of a pennant race. They began Tuesday about twice as far back of the first-place Twins.
Not being in a playoff race, however, does not mean out of contention to him.
"We're fighting for survival," Leyland said. "I hate the term spoiler, because we're not out of it. We're still playing for something. What happens if we won two straight here?"
The Tigers lost Tuesday's series to fall 11 games behind the Twins. If they can take the next two games with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander on the mound, they can creep within nine games.
Leyland has been careful when talking about contention or non-contention the last week or two. His comments Tuesday were pretty strong, and he reinforced that by saying he'll base his lineup decisions on winning now when asked about the role Casper Wells could play down the stretch.
"We're going to try to win as many games as we can. Period," Leyland said. "If Casper is helping win games, he'll play."
The strongest recent comments on the Tigers' chances had come from Johnny Damon, who said last week in turning down a potential trade to the Red Sox that the Tigers still had a chance.
On Tuesday, Damon said, "We know we can play a big difference in the race."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.