Thursday, June 15, 2006

Minors Rendezvous: Toledo's Starting Pitchers
Chad Durbin

This will be a recurring segment, where an in depth look at each position and team is taken. The first time through, some basic background information on each player will be given with a bit of analysis. During the next trip, an update of players and maybe a segment on one that catches my eye. The first segment will take us to Toledo's starting pitchers, starting with Chad Durbin.

Chad Durbin
Age: 28
Acquired: Minor League Free Agent, 12/05
Major League Service Time: 2.23 years
No options remaining, not on the 40 man roster
Originally Drafted: Kansas City, 3rd Round

Once a shiny star in the Royals system, Durbin really slipped into oblivion in recent years. He spent almost the full season in 2001 with the Royals with mixed results. Ending up with a 4.93 ERA in 179 big league innings. Combined with his 27 innings in AAA Omaha, and Durbin pitched 206 stressful innings as a 23 year old. Whereas the Royals were expecting him to take the next step forward, Durbin predictably ran into elbow problems early in 2002. After spending much of the year on the DL trying to rehab those problems, he went under the knife for Tommy John Surgery in September of that year. Signing as a minor league free agent with Cleveland in 2003, Durbin spent much of his time rehabbing from his surgery before finally getting a cup of coffee with Cleveland. In his first start back he was beaten by the Tigers, one of the 43 times that happened. Cleveland kept him around in 2004, where he became sort of a 6th starter and spent the year between Toledo and Buffalo. After being claimed on waivers by Arizona and spending some time eating innings in September of '04, Durbin spent last year in Washington's system as primarily a starter struggling the whole time.

Chad Durbin has been a bit of a surprise this year, having not posted a good season since before his surgery. There may be a touch of legitimacy here, as the four-pitch pitcher may be recapturing his stuff that made him a top prospect in his younger days. The most obvious recent comparison from a role standpoint would have to be Jason Grilli, who paid his dues in Toledo's rotation last year after recovering from serious arm issues. I would not at all be shocked to see Durbin in Detroit's bullpen by the time September comes around, taking care of some garbage innings as the team is hunting for a playoff spot while also auditioning for a role with the 2007 team. In the meantime, being the staff veteran, if there comes a time where a roster crunch should occur and there are too many starters in Toledo, Durbin should be the one squeezed to the pen. Nothing against the way he has pitched this year, it's just that being a reliever is going to be the way he is likely to ever make the Tigers. Chances are, though, Chad will become a free agent at season's end, and try to latch onto a team short of pitching looking for a chance to break through.

It is fun to pile on the Royals, but here is another chance. Here we have a 23 year old pitcher, pitching 200+ meaningless innings in 2001, many of those innings involved massive pitch counts. While elbow injuries usually aren't an indictment of overuse, this still cannot be a good thing. Making matters worse, Durbin first started having problems with his elbow in April, and did not have surgery until September, only to have the team non-tender him in December. That just seems like a complete lack of planning to me, with an arm that was supposed to be a potential cornerstone. Even with hindsight supporting the move, this just shows a complete lack of planning to me. While the actual mixed signals and questionable decision showed a severe lack of a plan, it took four organizations for Durbin to actually start to have success. There is finally light at the end of this man's career: a chance to get back to where he once was headed. The only thing standing in his way is the most effective pitching staff in the Majors.


Lee Panas said...

Durbin has surprised me too. I doubt he'll be much help for the Tigers but it looks like there is still a ray of hope for him. Thanks for the article.
It's not easy to find a lot of info on players like Durbin.

TonyJM said...

Nice blog, guys. With Durbin, Lewis and Larrison (to a far lesser degree), the club has been fortunate in seeing some careers resuscitate. Unfortunately for those guys the upper minors has been stacked.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article on Chad Durbin. This is the first time anyone has said anything positive on his behalf, since the Royals over used him with too many high pitch counts and too many innings due to a lack of relief pitching.
I am Chad's father, and can say this is the first season in many where he has regained command of his pitches and command when on the mound. He still has a lot to offer a club as a starter. When used in relief there were too many days off without a single inning. With Cleveland and Phoenix he would see 10 days plus without an inning. He loved the Cleveland club and the way it felt as a team with the players. Chad is a true starter. He can eat up innings like he used to when still being considered as an up and coming pitcher. He would of course accept a relief role, because he has earned getting back to the majors. He has never blamed an individual or club for his years struggling to get back to the bigs. He realizes baseball is a business and a very quick one to toss a player aside for the next big prospect.
Again thanks for mentioning how the Royals threw him to the Lions at a young age, over used him, and discarded him without a phone call to see how the surgery went.
Joe Durbin