Detroit Tigers claim injured reliever Freddy Pacheco off waivers from St. Louis Cardinals

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers claimed right-handed reliever Freddy Pacheco off waivers Tuesday from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pacheco, who turns 25 in April, throws hard with above-average vertical movement on his pitches. He posted a 3.05 ERA with 28 walks and 84 strikeouts over 62 innings in 50 relief appearances last season for Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.

But Pacheco has a right elbow injury.

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Less than three weeks ago, Pacheco experienced tightness around his elbow during live batting practice with the Cardinals. He was shut down in late February and designated for assignment earlier this month.

The severity of his injury is unclear.

The Tigers optioned Pacheco to Triple-A Toledo after claiming him off waivers. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-hander Tarik Skubal was transferred to the 60-day injured list. That means he can’t pitch for the Tigers until at least the end of May.

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Pacheco, who was the Cardinals’ No. 22 prospect at the end of last season according to MLB Pipeline, and has two minor-league options remaining, can flat-out dominate when healthy.

He primarily throws two pitches: a 96.5 mph four-seam fastball and an 84.4 mph slider. Last season, his fastball had a 26.5% whiff rate, while his slider generated a whopping 54.6% whiff rate. It wasn’t all positive, however, as Pacheco had an 11.2% walk rate, lacks an established changeup and has below-average horizontal movement.

Still, Pacheco registered an impressive 33.6% strikeout rate.

His fastball maxed out at 99.4 mph.

The Cardinals may have tried to sneak an injured Pacheco through waivers to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, though they could have received a roster spot by putting him on the 60-day injured list. Players on the 60-day injured list must be reinstated to the 40-man roster during the offseason.

Regardless of the circumstances, the Tigers took advantage of a unique opportunity to add what could be an elite bullpen arm in the future.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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