PHILADELPHIA -- Chad Durbin never met J.D. Durbin, who easily earns the distinction as the more brash of the Durbins. But he's heard plenty about him. J.D. has been infamously known in baseball circles since calling himself the "real deal" after pitching a scoreless inning in his professional debut while in rookie ball in 2000. Though five years older, Chad often was confused with him.
"I've been [getting heat] for that since it was in Baseball America," Chad said. "'Oh, you're that guy who thinks he's the real deal.' No, I believe that's my friend, J.D.'" On Thursday, the two became teammates and competitors for the fifth starter spot that may no longer belong to Adam Eaton. Rule 5 selection Travis Blackley also is in the mix. Durbin signed a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Phillies. "It'll play out," Chad Durbin said. "I really feel I can do well as a starter ... and that's why I signed here. But if I'm out in the 'pen, it means people are healthy, and that's a good sign across the board." Concern over the health of Eaton's right shoulder -- and his 6.29 ERA -- prompted the signing of Durbin, who adds valuable depth to the pitching staff. The Phillies inquired about acquiring him via a trade with the Tigers, then they waited until he was non-tendered and secured him as a free agent. "It's a competitive situation," Phils general manager Pat Gillick said. "It gives [manager] Charlie [Manuel] and [pitching coach] Rich Dubee options heading into Spring Training. If [Eaton's] healthy and performing, then he'd have an edge to be starting. But if someone else outperforms him ..." Durbin became expendable in the aftermath of Detroit's trade for Dontrelle Willis. Durbin called it "collateral damage." In 36 appearances for the Tigers last season, the 30-year-old made 19 starts, keeping the spot in the rotation warm for Kenny Rogers and rookie Andrew Miller. Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick are assured spots in the rotation, leaving Eaton in a tenuous position.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.