His eyes were wet and red, but his voice was clear.
Mike Pelfrey was not surprised Thursday morning when general manager Al Avila called him in and told him he’d been given his unconditional release. He was disappointed.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” he said. “After they told me I just apologized that I put them in that situation to have to make that decision. I feel bad about that part of it.”
A window into Pelfrey’s character right there. Things did not work out for Pelfrey in Detroit, obviously. Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract before last season, Pelfrey labored through a 4-10 season, a 5.07 ERA and a 1.731 WHIP.
He continued to have his struggles this spring. He pitched 17 innings this spring, allowing 24 hits and 15 runs (all earned) for a 7.94 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. Opponents were hitting .343 off of him.
But his work ethic, professionalism and accountability never wavered. Right through his last day in the organization.
“Obviously, I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain,” he said. “But I get it. These guys (Matthew Boyd and Anibal Sanchez) came in here and pitched great. They made the decision the other day to put Sanchy in the 'pen, I knew it didn’t look good after that.
“Everything worked out the way it’s supposed to in the end.”
Pelfrey came into camp with an entirely new approach. Instead of relying almost solely on his heavy sinker, he worked to incorporate a slow curveball, change-up and slider. After a few rough outings, he put together three solid ones — enough perhaps to entice another team to give him an opportunity.
“I don’t know if I ever had a great spring, numbers-wise,” he said. “I’m kind of an adrenalin guy. But I got what I deserved. I didn’t come in and pitch good and the other guys did. That’s what happens.
“So, we move on.”
The Tigers will pay Pelfrey’s $8 million salary for 2017. They also will pay Mark Lowe ($5.5 million) whom they unconditionally released earlier this week.
The Tigers pitching staff is set — barring a trade or injury.
Starters: Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer, Boyd.
Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Rondon, Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson, Shane Greene, Kyle Ryan and Sanchez.