Ex-Kat joins Tigers staff

Former Sam Houston State University pitcher Jordan Tata will be on the roster for the Detroit Tigers on opening day of the 2006 major league baseball season.

A day before the Tigers open the season in Kansas City, the Tigers placed closer Todd Jones on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled hamstring. To take his spot on the roster, the club recalled Tata from Double-A Erie on Monday.

Tata pitched for the Bearkats in 2002 and 2003, transferring to Sam Houston from Oklahoma Wesleyan. The Lake Highlands High School product from Dallas is a 6-6, 220-pound right hander.

In 2002, he was 2-4 with a 5.13 earned run average, pitching 53 innings and striking out 26 batters. In 2003, Tata was 4-7 with a 5.62 ERA, leading the Bearkats in innings pitched with 75 and strike outs with 62.

Tata was sent to Erie’s club on March 17 and has not pitched a regular-season game above Class A ball.

The next game he pitches will be quite a leap above that level. He will work in relief on a pitching staff that already includes the Tigers’ top prospects from last year in 23-year-old fifth starter Justin Verlander and fireballing 21-year-old Joel Zumaya, whose chances of pitching later in games would appear better now with Jones out.

Tata is older than both of them at 24, despite being lower on the developmental ladder. Yet he beat them out for Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors on the strength of his 13-2 record and 2.79 ERA last

season at Class A Lakeland.

Though he does not boast the power fastball, he tops out in the mid-90’s and spots it effectively. Baseball America, which ranked him as Detroit’s seventh-best prospect last winter, also credited him with the best control

in the farm system.

“Tata was the recommendation [of player development and Minor League officials] because he had thrown the ball so well,” president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters Sunday. “They said, ‘Who’s more ready for the big leagues? Verlander, Zumaya or Tata? He’s just as ready as the other guys. He wouldn’t take a backseat to any of them.'”

Tata made an impression on Leyland this spring, tossing 7 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. He struggled with his control, walking four Nationals over two innings in his lone big-league spring start on March 16. He issued three times as many walks (six) as hits (two) this spring.

Leyland will probably pick and choose his opportunities for Tata, whose callup gives him a chance to pitch in front of family and friends near Dallas when the Tigers visit the Rangers for four games starting Thursday.

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