Detroit Tigers add more veterans to spring training roster

Ryan Lavarnway bats against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Ryan Lavarnway bats against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers add a veteran starter and a veteran catcher.

Earlier today we wrote about the Detroit Tigers adding three veteran non-roster invitees to spring training camp. Shortly afterward the club quietly brought two more vets to Lakeland in the form of pitcher Chase Anderson and catcher Ryan Lavarnway.

The team hasn’t made an official announcement on Twitter the way they did with the previous trio, but the team’s official Non-Roster page lists the new additions.

Here’s what you need to know about the newest arrivals at Tigertown.

Detroit Tigers Non-Roster Invitee – RHP Chase Anderson

Detroit Tigers
Chase Anderson pitches against the New York Mets. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Chase Anderson’s story is one of impressive perseverance. He was an undersized and lightly recruited pitcher in high school, so he went to North Central Texas College before transferring to Oklahoma to work as a reliever. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed him for $85,000 in the 9th round of the 2009 draft and quickly transitioned him into a starting role.

He gradually made his way through Arizona’s system and made his MLB debut in 2014, performing admirably for a disappointing Diamondbacks squad, going 9-7 with a 4.01 ERA for manager Kirk Gibson (and bench coach Alan Trammell). He was solid again in 2015, and then Arizona traded him to Milwaukee in a deal that involved Jean Segura.

Anderson was a quality back-end starter for the Brewers for four seasons, going 38-27 with a 3.83 ERA in 590 innings. Milwaukee traded him to the Blue Jays after the 2019 season, but he struggled to a 7.22 ERA in 33.2 innings for Toronto. Last year he signed a one-year, $4-million deal with the Phillies, but Philadelphia cut him in late August after he posted a 6.75 ERA in 48 innings.

Chase Anderson has never had premium stuff, but he’s a quality strike thrower with a solid four-pitch mix. His fastball sits in the 88-92 MPH range, but he’s generally done a good job of avoiding hard contact. His low-80s changeup has always been his best pitch, showing nice vertical movement, but he’ll also mix in a mid-80s cutter and a mid-70s curve. Anderson lacks upside, but with close to 1,000 big-league innings he adds depth and valuable experience to the pitching staff.

Detroit Tigers Non-Roster Invitee – C Ryan Lavarnway

Detroit Tigers
Israel’s Ryan Lavarnway appeals to home plate umpire Fabrizio Fabrizi during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA/AFP via Getty Images) /

Ryan Lavarnway has had a fascinating baseball career. He played his college ball at Yale, where he was a philosophy major, won a Division I batting title (.476), and set the record for career home runs (33) by an Ivy Leaguer. Scouts had serious doubts about his defense, but the Red Sox took him in the 6th round in the 2008 draft because they believed in his bat.

Lavarnway made steady progress with his glove, and he continued to show offensive promise in pro ball, hitting 21, 22, and 32 home runs in his first three seasons in the minors before debuting with the Red Sox in late 2011. That season was Boston’s infamous “Chicken and Beer” collapse, but Lavarnway helped stave off the embarrassment for one day. He made his first start at catcher in the second-to-last game of the season, and he hit his first two career MLB home runs that day, including an 8th-inning game winner.

He saw action in 46 games for the Red Sox in 2012, but he’s been all over baseball since. Lavarnway has played in just 165 MLB games over ten seasons in the majors, but he’s managed to see at least five games at the big-league level in every season since 2011, with the exception of 2016. He has played for Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Miami, and Cleveland, and he also spent time with the Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, and Team Israel.

For all his amateur and minor-league offensive prowess, Lavarnway is just a career .217/.272/.345 hitter in the big leagues. He has stuck around pro ball thanks to his intelligence and hard work to steadily improve his defense. It seems unlikely he’ll make the Tigers this year, but given his history it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in Detroit for a handful of games.

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