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Tigers part ways with Hunter, re-sign Hanrahan

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Detroit — The signing of Victor Martinez wasn't all that became official on Friday for the Tigers.

They are not bringing back outfielder Torii Hunter — and they have told him so.

Following the Martinez news conference, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, while addressing the ramifications of the trade for outfielder Anthony Gose, said, "I don't think we will re-sign Torii.

"I called him today to let him know that. I had seen his agent (Larry Reynolds) in Arizona at the general managers' meetings and told him we were having conversations with Victor and that if we signed him, it would probably keep us from going strongly after Torii.

"I said, it doesn't look like it's going to fit. He understood."

Hunter, 39, played two years for the Tigers, hitting .295 with an average of 17 home runs and 83 RBIs.

He's not the outfielder he used to be but is still a threat at the plate, and despite mentioning it as a possibility when the season ended, he's not ready for retirement yet.

In fact, said Dombrowski, "Torii still wants to play on an everyday basis."

On Friday night, Hunter took to Instagram to thank the Tigers and their fans for a "blessed" two years.

Other matters addressed after the Martinez signing ranged from the decision to re-sign pitcher Joel Hanrahan to the upcoming (Nov. 20) option situation involving catcher Alex Avila.

Hanrahan was signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training, so despite the dollars being mentioned as part of the agreement ($1 million base, $2.5 million in possible bonuses), there's no part of the contract that is guaranteed.

"He'll start throwing on schedule on Dec. 1," Dombrowski said, "and we're hopeful he will be able to help us next year. But I'm not counting on him.

"He's not at the point health-wise (after Tommy John surgery in 2013) where you can say, although I wish I could, he's one of our guys. He's a gamble."

Hanrahan chose to re-sign with the Tigers without a guaranteed contract because he felt he "owed" it to them after not being able to pitch last year while being paid $1 million.

"He could have signed a guaranteed contract somewhere else, but that's the way they felt," Dombrowski said. "That's the word (owed) they used."

And because Hanrahan has been cleared by Dr. James Andrews to start throwing, the Tigers are eager to give him another chance.

After all, he posted 76 saves in 2011-2012 for Pittsburgh before experiencing elbow problems for Boston in 2013.

Of the bullpen in general, Dombrowski said, "I'm not saying we're done (with the return of Bruce Rondon and the exercising of Joakim Soria's option), but I'm not at the point of mass emergency."

The subject of Max Scherzer's future, and whether the Tigers are still in the mix for the free-agent ace, was brought up, but only briefly.

"It's only the middle of November," said Dombrowski, "and as his representative he has Scott (Boras), who generally does not move things quickly.

"But I will say that we are comfortable with four starters that we have — and we'd be comfortable going forward with a young guy as our fifth guy."

But Dombrowski didn't reveal his cards when given the chance to indicate it will be a mere formality for the Tigers to pick up Avila's option.

When asked flat-out if it's going to happen, the Tigers GM stuck by an earlier response that the Tigers haven't picked it up yet because they haven't had to, saying, "That's all I'm going to say on the matter."

Meanwhile, on the subject of Gose, whom the Tigers acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday night for second baseman Devon Travis — judged by Baseball America as the Tigers' top prospect — Dombrowski repeated that he simply won't be handed the job of starting center fielder.

"He will have to earn it," Dombrowski said. "We know he can play defense and run, so it depends on how he proceeds from an offensive perspective. How he hits will determine how much time he plays out there.

"To play every day, he has to show improvement."