THE PRESENT: RHP Chris Bootcheck signed a minor-league deal with Detroit -- with an invitation to spring training -- in December.
THE PAST: Bootcheck, who turned 33 in October, originally signed with the Angels in 2000 and reached the majors in 2003. He spent parts of five different seasons with the Angels, and in his best year (2005) he was 7-4 with a 5.63 ERA. Primarily a starter early in his career, Bootcheck has assumed a bullpen role in recent seasons. His best season came as the closer for Indianapolis in 2009, where he posted a 3-2 record with 20 saves and a 3.38 ERA in 40 appearances, eventually earning time with the Pirates. After pitching in Japan in 2010, Bootcheck pitched for Durham last season, splitting time between starting and relieving. He began the season in the bullpen and was 1-0 with a save and a 2.25 ERA in nine relief appearances with the Bulls; as a starter Bootcheck was 2-2 with a 4.07 ERA.
THE FUTURE: Bootcheck is an interesting signing because of his major-league experience, as well as his experience as both a starter and reliever. Based on his success closing for Indianapolis two years ago -- and the potential wealth of young starters the Mud Hens probably will have -- it looks probable that Bootcheck will pitch out of the Hens 'pen. He could be seen as a veteran closer to help young bullpen arms such as Jose Ortega and Matt Hoffman mature.