Well-traveled Dotel proud to be Tiger
Righty remembers time with Mets during visit to old spring home
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Over a decade has passed, but Octavio Dotel has not forgotten where his big league career began.
The 13-year veteran is a Tiger now, but he still remembers coming up as a hard-throwing prospect with the Mets.
Dotel signed as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic in 1993. He finally made it to the Majors in 1999, going 8-3 over 85 1/3 innings for the Mets.
That was the beginning of a successful career for the 38-year-old Dotel. He has succeeded as a starter and a reliever. He was part of a combined no-hitter. He is a World Series champion.
But after all that success, and as he prepares to pitch for his 13th Major League club, Dotel has never forgotten where he came from. That is why the Tigers' newest reliever was reminiscing prior to Friday's game against the Mets at Digital Domain Park.
"It feels great to be here in Port St. Lucie," Dotel said. "It's been about 12 years since I was here, so it feels great to be back here where I was born and raised as a potential big leaguer. It's makes me very happy to come back."
None of Dotel's teammates from his days in the Mets system are on their roster today. Dotel and Jason Isringhausen are the only players from the 1999 Mets team that are even active today.
One of Dotel's teammates from that year, Rickey Henderson, is in the Hall of Fame. Robin Ventura, who was the Mets' third baseman in 1999, is now the manager of the White Sox.
Beyond the obvious changes to the Mets' roster, Dotel has noticed significant changes to Port St. Lucie since he last called it his Spring Training home 13 years ago.
"I remember when I first got here as young player, and those are memories I will never forget," Dotel said. "So much has changed since I was here. It used to be mostly a wooded area around here, and now there has been so much development that you just say 'Wow' at what they have been able to do over the past 10 years."
Just like Dotel has fond memories of his old teammates, the veteran is excited about creating new memories with his new teammates. He is especially looking forward to joining fellow Dominicans Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit at the back of the Tigers' bullpen.
"It's great to play with those guys," Dotel said of his new teammates in Detroit. "I have a lot of fun with Valverde. He's an amazing person, and a great person to spend time with. He keeps everyone loose, because he is very active and happy all the time with his demeanor. I am proud to be his teammate, just like I am with Benoit. I think we will have a very strong bullpen this year, and I am proud that a lot of us in the bullpen are Dominican. It's always great to see guys from home succeeding in the big leagues."
Even at age 38, Dotel believes he can still be an effective reliever. It's hard to argue with that as he turned in a 3.28 ERA last season while holding right-handed hitters to a .154 batting average. Now that he has joined his Major League-record 13th team, he will look to continue his success on the mound for another year.
"My biggest thing is being able to help the team," Dotel said. "I hope to be a key piece of this team's bullpen this year. I want them to be able to have confidence in me when they need someone to come in and get a big out. I hope to get that opportunity, and then make the most of it every time that I step on the mound."
Dotel, who threw a perfect inning of relief against the Mets on Friday, was a key member of the Cardinals' bullpen as they surged towards a championship last season. When he compares this year's Tigers to last year's Cardinals, Dotel sees a lot of similarities between the defending champions and his current club.
"We are very similar," Dotel said. "We had [Albert] Pujols there, and here we have [Miguel] Cabrera. We had [Lance] Berkman, and here we have Prince Fielder. We had [Matt] Holliday, and here we have [Delmon] Young, [Jhonny] Peralta and so many others. I think the two teams are very similar. I just hope we have some of the same luck here that we had last year in St. Louis."
The Tigers' talented and deep roster is one of the many reasons why Dotel is so excited to be playing in Detroit this season, and he believes they will have a good chance of making him a repeat champion.
"I am very excited about my opportunity here," Dotel said. "I feel like this team has the pieces and ability to be back where I was at the end of the year last year. We have a chance to be serious contenders, so it's very exciting to think about possibly making another run at a World Series."
David Villavicencio is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.