A year after the Tigers signed Brad Thomas out of Japanese ball, and two years after Detroit brought over Fu-Te Ni, they’ve gone back to the Far East to find a bullpen lefty. Detroit has agreed to a minor-league deal with former Royal John Bale, who pitched this year with the Hiroshima Carp in the Japanese Central League.
Foxsports.com first reported the signing, which the Tigers confirmed.
You might remember the 36-year-old Bale from his time in 2009 with the Royals. He gave up 18 earned runs on 34 hits over 28 1/3 innings that season with 24 strikeouts. He spent parts of three seasons in Kansas City after a previous three-year stint in Japan.
It would be fair to consider Bale a depth signing for a situational lefty. He has allowed a .238 average and a .647 OPS to left-handed hitters for his Major League career, compared with a .327 average and .847 OPS against right-handed batters.
If you want to get into the looming lefties of the AL Central, Justin Morneau is 2-for-10 lifetime off Bale, though one of those hits was a two-run homer. Joe Mauer is 4-for-9 off him, but all singles, with three RBIs. Grady Sizemore is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts against Bale, while Travis Hafner and Jason Kubel are both 2-for-7 off him.
The Tigers will probably still take a look at left-handers on the market as teams head into the Winter Meetings next week. At the moment, Bale joins Daniel Schlereth, Brad Thomas and Fu-Te Ni among southpaws expected to be in Tigers camp come February. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has pointed out that right-handers Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Joel Zumaya can retire lefties as well, but with the lefty market usually lingering past the holidays, the Tigers can afford to look around.
— Jason Beck