Labourt eager to prove himself as reliever in bigs

Lefty looks to seize opportunity after September callup

Labourt eager to prove himself as reliever in bigs

DETROIT -- Long before the Tigers went into their current rebuild, Jairo Labourt was part of their last major trade involving a Cy Young Award winner.

Speaking through interpreter Bryan Loor-Almonte, Labourt said that when he joined the Tigers' organization as part of the David Price trade to Toronto, he thought his career might be over. He didn't understand how the trade process works. In hindsight, he called it the best thing to happen to him.

If Labourt, the Tigers' No. 20 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, can turn into the lefty reliever Detroit desperately needs to pair with Daniel Stumpf in its bullpen, he could be a nice throw-in for the team as well.

Labourt's September callup was a nice reward for the 23-year-old to cap a breakout season in the Tigers' system that included a SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game selection. After struggling as a starter, his move to relief full-time late last season proved to be a blessing.

As a starter, Labourt said, he struggled to repeat his mechanics and locate his pitches consistently. As a reliever, despite fewer repetitions, the ability to let loose has helped him stay in form. Moreover, he has built confidence.

Labourt posted a 2.17 ERA at three stops on his way up the Tigers' farm system, allowing 43 hits over 66 1/3 innings with 79 strikeouts. His issues with walks disappeared until Triple-A Toledo, where he issued 23 free passes over 22 innings -- nearly twice as many walks as hits (12).

For him to stick in the Majors, Labourt said, he knows he has to throw strikes. This September stint is his chance to show he can do that. He has walked two batters in as many appearances with Detroit, and he threw a pair of wild pitches to the backstop in Sunday's loss to the Indians. With four more weeks to go in the season, he has plenty of time to prove himself.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.