Figaro named Saturday starter for Tigers

Figaro named Saturday starter

DETROIT -- Alfredo Figaro will make his first start in three months in the thick of a pennant race on the next-to-last day of the regular season. Given the Tigers' situation, it's the best they can make of their pitching.

With Tuesday's doubleheader all but ruling out rookie Rick Porcello from what would've been his final scheduled start Saturday against the White Sox, the Tigers are turning to rookie Figaro, who made two starts for the Tigers in June before going on the disabled list in early July with a sprained right wrist.

He hasn't made a start at any level since then, but he's one of just three healthy pitchers left in Detroit's bullpen who have started a game for the Tigers this year. Jeremy Bonderman can't be stretched out to start, and manager Jim Leyland has said Zach Miner is too important in the bullpen to return to starting.

That leaves Figaro, who hasn't made a start at any level since taking a loss for the Tigers at Houston on June 28. A week earlier, Figaro earned his first Major League win with five effective innings and a heavy dose of mid-90s fastballs against the Brewers. He was hit particularly hard on his breaking stuff against the Astros before going on the DL soon after.

"We think he's the best guy," Leyland said. "That's what we've got. That's how we're going."

Figaro, obviously, is glad they are.

"I'm excited to start again," Figaro said. "I want to be a starter, so I've tried to be a starter. They gave me the opportunity, so I'll try to do the best I can so that maybe next year I can be a starter again. I know I can, but I don't want to think about that right now."

The 25-year-old right-hander wasn't among the original group of September callups when rosters expanded, having just finished a rehab assignment in relief at Double-A Erie. He went home to the Dominican Republic to throw in preparation for winter ball before he got the call to come back.

He was added two weeks ago, when Eddie Bonine went from long relief into the rotation to replace injured Armando Galarraga, who at the time was supposed to start in place of Nate Robertson, who later ended up back in the rotation in place of injured Jarrod Washburn, who might be able to pitch again if the Tigers advance deep in the postseason.

That gives a good idea of the revolving-door feeling to the back end of the Tigers rotation this month as Detroit tries to wrap up a division title. It'll clear up quite a bit if the Tigers reach the postseason, but with Bonine, Robertson and Figaro pitching in three of the next four games, they have to get there first.

The Twins don't have much sympathy; they currently have "To Be Announced" as their starter for all three of their games this weekend against the Royals.

Though Figaro hasn't started, he already has a win under his belt since returning. His 2 2/3 scoreless innings at Chicago last Saturday helped the Tigers overcome a 5-0 deficit and pull out a 12-5 victory.

The Tigers haven't figured out a pitch count for Figaro quite yet. Saturday's outing, they believe, should help.

"I feel like a normal starter," Figaro said. "I have to be ready to go and keep my team in the game. That's what I had to do at the time. Now that I'm starting, I have to compete."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.