Jose Lima Dies at 37

Who knew that when Jose Lima was called up to the Tigers in 1994 he would become a 20-game winner and a big-league character? Lima, whose best seasons in the majors came as a member of the Astros, died this morning at his home in Los Angeles of an apparent heart attack. He was just 37 years old.

The cause of death was ruled a heart attack, according to his wife, Dorca Astacio.

“Jose was complaining while sleeping and I just thought he was having a nightmare,” Astacio told ESPNdeportes.com. “I called the paramedics, but they couldn’t help him.”

Lima signed with the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1989 and arrived in Detroit during the 1994 season, appearing in just three games. In 1995 he was primarily a starter for the last club Sparky Anderson would manage. Lima posted as 3-9 record with 6.11 ERA. The following year he split time between the rotation and the bullpen finishing at 5-6 with three saves.

On December 10, 1996, Tigers GM Randy Smith sent Lima, Brad Ausmus, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward to the Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash.

Continue reading “Jose Lima Dies at 37”

Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories

Tigers thoughts while listening to a pounding rain:
Caravan Logo_1.jpg

  • I attended the Tigers Winter Caravan one time, in 1991 when I was living in Kalamazoo and had some connections with the local paper. Back then, only the media was invited. Or so I thought. I walked into a Kalamazoo hotel and saw dozens of fans asking for autographs from the players and Sparky Anderson.

    If memory serves me, Cecil Fielder was there. Recently signed Tony Bernazard was too. This I remember because I asked Sparky during the Q&A how he’d work Bernazard into the lineup without Tony Phillips losing at bats. The answer was classic Sparky and basically amounted to: “I have no idea but Tony is Tony and we’ll be all right.” Uh, yeah. (Bernazard was released in April after playing in just six games and hitting .167).

    The real story that winter was the recent firing of Ernie Harwell and, lo and behold, new Tigers President Bo Schembechler was on hand to answer questions about it. As you might guess, Bo was not happy with the first round of reporters’ questions being about Ernie and not the team. After that, he said he wouldn’t answer other questions on the topic and though people tried, he wouldn’t bite — other than to bite their head off for even asking.

    It was a great experience. If you get an opportunity to attend a Winter Caravan event, do it.

    Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories”

2009 Player Profile: Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney #56

  • Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 220
  • 2008 Stats: 0-6, 4.91 ERA, 13 Saves

In a bottom-line business like major league baseball, fans tend to overlook stats such as 49 strikeouts in 40 innings or 13 saves from a late-inning reliever like Fernando Rodney. RodneyHead.jpgSix blown saves and an ERA a whisker under five are more glaring and more representative of Detroit’s bullpen woes in 2008. Yet despite that lackluster campaign, the Tigers expect big things from Rodney in ’09.

Though he spent April and May on the DL, the ’08 season wasn’t all bad for the senior-ranking Tiger in the bullpen; he assembled stretches of lights-out appearances, including June and July in which hitters produced a .183 average against him. Over that same timeframe he fanned 37 in 27.1 innings pitched. The key to success for Rodney is a breathtaking changeup that, when near the plate, is difficult for hitters to resist. Of course, a high-90s fastball makes the off-speed pitches that much more tantalizing.

With Todd Jones’ retirement, Brandon Lyon‘s arrival and Joel Zumaya’s (tentative) return, chances are that Rodney will begin 2009 as a setup man. If something goes wrong with Lyon or Zumaya and if Rodney can harness his pitches, develop consistency, and fortify his mental makeup, he could, in the end, be the Tigers’ answer at closer.

For a pitcher with Rodney’s track record, that’s an awful lot of ifs.

Meet Brandon Lyon

BrandonLyon.jpgWhenever I watched Brandon Lyon pitch for the Diamondbacks the past couple of seasons, my immediate reaction was always he’s a younger Todd Jones.

Fact is, he throws harder than Jones — which can’t hurt — but no one is going to confuse him with Joe Nathan.

Last season wasn’t a pleasant one for the D-backs’ closer, a position he lost to Chad Qualls. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Despite four blown saves in 23 chances in the first half, hitters managed a .243 average against him and his ERA was 2.43. (Compare that to Jones’s 4.95 ERA and .297 opponents’ average in the first half.)

In terms of repertoire, it doesn’t extend far past a fastball and curve. In fact, that’s it. But the curveball is something to behold; no roundhouse breaking pitch, Lyon’s is top-to-bottom — or noon-to-six, as they say. Still, in 2008 he threw the fastball 72 percent of the time — 73 percent with two strikes.

As you might expect, Lyons doesn’t heave bullets across the heart of the plate. Instead, he has a Jones-like corners-nibbling approach. His favorite spots — against righties or lefties — are the outside corners. But against lefties his greatest success comes on the inside corner, up and in, and down and in. So, did the Tigers get themselves another Todd Jones?

Perhaps.

But Lyon is 10 years younger than the Tigers’ erstwhile closer and, in the spirit of optimism, he seems to have the durability and closer-ish stuff the bullpen so desperately needs.

(Oh, and Lyon wore number 38 in Arizona and will need a new one in Detroit…unless Jeremy Bonderman wants to give up his number. I’m guessing he ends up with 36.)

The Top 10 Tigers Stories of 2008: #6 – Joel Zumaya Gets Hurt Again

Number6.jpgThe Tigers were likely ecstatic when Joel Zumaya managed a quicker-than-expected return from shoulder reconstruction. A healthy Zumaya (and Fernando Rodney) was to revitalize a rickety bullpen and fill in the sizable reliability gap late in games. Except they didn’t.

Zumaya was cleared to play in late June and appeared in 21 games (23.1 IP).

It all came crashing down again on August 12 against Toronto at Comerica Park:

The Tigers had a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh inning with the middle of the Blue Jays order coming up. All five batters he faced reached base safely, fueling a four-run rally in a 6-4 Detroit loss and fueling the speculation that something is wrong with Zumaya.

“We’re very suspicious that he’s not right,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I mean, enough’s enough. It’s not his fault. We’re just getting him checked out for precautionary measures.

“I know he’s not right. I don’t know if he’s hurt, but he’s definitely not right. I know that for a fact.”

A month after the disastrous appearance against the Blue Jays, Zumaya was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right shoulder.

He finished his truncated season 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA. He allowed 24 hits, 22 walks, 22 strikeouts and 13 runs (nine of them earned). And he blew four of five save opportunities.

When the season started, the Tigers weren’t counting on Zumaya for much of a contribution. But Todd Jones began to show his age and the speedy recovery by Zumaya changed everything.

Or so it seemed.

A Bummer of an Outlook for the 2009 Tigers

ESPN.com’s trip through each MLB team’s roster continued today with write Jonah Keri‘s lens focused on the American League Central and the Tigers.

If you’re looking for a positive outlook to end your week, look elsewhere. Here’s a taste:

Aside from a younger, more athletic band of glove men, the Tigers need about a half-dozen new pitchers. Verlander and Galarraga figure to anchor a rotation that’s woefully shorthanded, with lefties Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson turning into pumpkins and Jeremy Bonderman now more of a perennial injury risk than a future frontline starter. The bullpen is no better, with Todd Jones retired, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney fighting to regain their lost command, and journeyman Aquilino Lopez the best of the 2008 bunch.

Now that hurts.