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Who is Tom Gorzelanny and how does he fit with the Tigers?

Gorzelanny joins the Tigers' pitching staff and is expected to work out of the bullpen in 2015.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers signed Tom Gorzelanny as a free agent to a one-year contract, which was reported to be worth approximately $1 million. The 32-year-old, 6-foot-3, left-handed pitcher is a veteran of almost eight seasons in the major leagues. He has spent parts of five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and two seasons each with the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, and most recently the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gorzelanny was born in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a suburb on the south side of Chicago, where he attended Marist High School. He went to a local college in nearby River Grove, Illinois and transferred to the University of Kansas. He was drafted in the 38th round of the 2000 amateur player draft by his local team, the Chicago White Sox, but opted to remain in school. He was drafted again by the Pirates in the second round of the 2003 draft and signed his first professional contract.

In the September of 2005, Gorzelanny made his major league debut as a reliever and began the 2006 season at Triple-A Altoona. He was selected to play for Team USA in the Futures Game that year, but was first called up to the majors and made his starting debut against the Tigers, getting the win on July 1, 2006.  In 11 appearances, all starting, he posted an ERA of 3.79.

In 2007, Gorzelanny remained in the Pirates’ rotation, leading the team in wins while going 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in over 200 innings of work. Control issues plagued him in 2008 and he was optioned back to Triple-A.  He was traded to the Cubs in 2009, where he remained for two years before being traded to the Washington Nationals. After the 2012 season, he signed a two-year contract with Milwaukee worth $5.7 million.

In 2013, Gorzelanny made 10 starts but spent most of the season in the bullpen, posting a 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 83 strikeouts in 85 innings overall. In 2014, he was on the disabled list until mid-June due to offseason shoulder surgery, and was limited to 21 innings in 23 appearances, all in relief. He finished the season with a 0.86 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP.

Gorzelanny has been more effective out of the bullpen throughout his career, posting a 2.88 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP and striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings in relief. As a starter, he has a career ERA of 4.62 with a WHIP of 1.47. He has made 121 starts and 138 appearances in relief.

The Tigers will likely use Gorzelanny out of the bullpen. He is ideally suited for a middle-to-long relief role, with four out of five pitchers in the Tigers’ starting rotation being right-handed. If needed, he can also pitch in the late innings. He has been most effective in the eighth and ninth innings, but the Tigers have others in mind for the late inning roles as of today.

The Tigers aren't going to pay Alfredo Simon $5 million to be a relief pitcher, and they didn't get Tom Gorzelanny for $1 million to be a starter. Simon will have first crack at the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. In the event the Tigers need another starting pitcher, Gorzelanny could join a group that includes young left-handed starters Kyle Lobstein and Kyle Ryan, along with right-handers Drew VerHagen and Buck Farmer. While his roster spot is not assured, Gorzelanny figures to have an advantage due to his experience and being a left-hander capable of starting and working from the bullpen.

Gorzelanny is not exactly just a lefty specialist, although he has fared better against left-handed batters. For his career, right-handed hitters have hit .271/.349/.430, while left-handers batted just .231/.301/.360 against him. He has a full arsenal of pitches, using a two-seam fastball and a changeup against right-handers, while deploying the two-seamer, a four-seamer, a curveball and slider against left-handers. In 2014, he showed some reverse splits, with left-handers hitting .324 while right-handers batted just .216.

Currently, the Tigers’ bullpen would include Joe Nathan as closer, Joakim Soria as the primary set-up man, Bruce Rondon if healthy, along with Al Alburquerque in the late inning roles. Blaine Hardy and Gorzelanny are the left-handed relief pitchers. There is one other pitcher who could make the team out of spring training if Rondon is not ready to go by Opening Day, which is a distinct possibility. Alex Wilson, who made 44 appearances with the Boston Red Sox in 2014, has a strong chance to make the Opening Day roster.