The Return of Rabelo


2007 was a strange season for the Detroit Tigers. Coming off a surprise run to the World Series in 2006, the Tigers were poised to make another run. They had added slugger Gary Sheffield to an already imposing offense, and first baseman Sean Casey was brought back for a full season in Detroit. One place the Tigers didn’t expect to make a change was in their catching corps.

Pudge Rodriguez was the unquestioned starter and still a force both offensively and defensively. The backup was again slated to be Vance Wilson, a veteran with a solid bat and strong arm.

But when Wilson went down with elbow troubles, the Tigers had to turn to a rookie to fill the void. Enter Mike Rabelo, a switch hitting youngster who had only one at bat in the big leagues before that.

But as Wilson injury proved to be more serious, it became apparent that Rabelo would have to take on a greater share of the work at the big league level. Rabelo, then 27 years old, stayed with the Tigers all year and held his own quite nicely. He posted one home run and 18 RBI while hitting a respectable .256 in 168 at bats.

Following the season, the Tigers dealt Rabelo, along with four others, to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.

Rabelo struggled in his first season with the Fish, batting just .202 in 109 at bats. He was sent to the minor leagues and didn’t make it back to the Show at all in 2009.

Now Rabelo has come back to Detroit. The Tigers announced today that Rabelo is one of 17 minor leaguers inked to contracts for the 2010 season.

Don’t expect to find his name on the Opening Day roster, though. Rabelo will likely play in Toledo alongside Robinzon Diaz. But it’s nice to know that if something should happen to either Gerald Laird or Alex Avila, the Tigers have two guys waiting in the minors that have proven they can handle the duties of catching in the big leagues.

Welcome home, Mike.