As manager Jim Leyland and his staff discovered, Colon wasn't available, either. Though the right-hander is on the 40-man roster and could be recalled, he's suffering discomfort in the biceps of his throwing arm.
That left Tata, who was sent to Erie's club on March 17, and left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma, who was optioned to Toledo on March 23. Given the choice, organizational officials recommended Tata, who hasn't pitched a regular-season game above Class A ball.
The next game he pitches will be quite a leap above that level. He'll 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 doesn't boast the power fastball, he tops out in the mid-90s 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 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.
As for save opportunities, though Leyland didn't outright name Fernando Rodney as his closer in Jones' absence, he'll have the first chance. Rodney's nine saves tied him for the team high. All nine of them came in the final two months of the season after Detroit traded Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta and anointed Rodney as the closer.