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This Week in Relief: Cruceta, Fossum, and Rodney

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Always eager for an entrepreneurial opportunity here at BYB, I'd been mulling over the idea of a set of collectible milk cartons with Francisco Cruceta's roster photo on one side, with a caption reading "Have You Seen This Pitcher? If So, Please Call Dave Dombrowski" underneath. But it looks like I'll have to shelve that particular merchandising opportunity, and frankly, I'm happy to.

Rumors of Cruceta actually becoming a Detroit Tiger felt as if they may have been exaggerated during Spring Training when visa issues (likely related to his 50-game suspension last year for using performance enhancers) kept him from entering the United States. February and March passed without the Tigers being able to get a first-hand look at Cruceta and his reportedly blazing fastball or determine where he fit into their bullpen, and the team eventually had to break camp without him. But Cruceta has finally fought through the bureaucracy, his visa has been approved, and he can now bring some hope (and heat) to the Tigers' pitching staff.

Last season, Cruceta pitched in 25 games for the Rangers' Triple-A team, posting a 3-0 record and 3.02 ERA, with 70 strikeouts (and 40 walks) in 65 2/3 innings.

Cruceta will report to the Tigers' training complex in Lakeland, and the team will have 30 days to determine which part of the organization he best fits. (He's out of minor league options.) Assuming that he's been throwing and working out while trapped in the Dominican Republic, however, it's not too hard to imagine that Cruceta will be joining the big league club if the Tigers like his velocity and control. Who might he replace? Oh, I might have a suggestion...

Also joining the Tigers organization yesterday was Casey Fossum, once a valued prospect for the Boston Red Sox who was part of the deal that brought Curt Schilling over from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He signed a minor league deal with Detroit and will be assigned to Triple-A Toledo. According to the Toledo Blade, manager Larry Parrish will keep Fossum on the temporary inactive list until his arm strength is built back up.

Last year, Fossum pitched in 40 games for the Tampa Bay Rays, starting in 10 of them. He finished with a 5-8 record and 7.70 ERA, with 53 strikeouts in 76 innings. The Pittsburgh Pirates released Fossum toward the end of Spring Training this year.

When Mike McClary informed me of Fossum's signing via instant message, my immediate reaction was "Why? He stinks." I would've much rather seen the Tigers take a chance on Robinson Tejeda, though maybe they thought he was too much of a project at this point..

Despite his soft-tossing ways, however, Fossum does seem to fill a need, either replacing the injured Macay McBride in the Toledo starting rotation or compete with Aaron Fultz to become the left-handed reliever called up to Detroit when needed.

(UPDATE: I forgot to mention something else Mike pointed out when we were talking about Fossum last night. If you go to his Baseball Reference page, and scroll all the way down to the "Similar Pitchers" category, there are a few names listed that should be very familiar to Tigers fans.)

And for those of you still hoping for Fernando Rodney to make a worthy contribution to this year's team (I'm of the opinion that he's done), the Tigers say he threw a pain-free bullpen session yesterday in Lakeland.