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Rookie Jairo Labourt auditions in the Tigers bullpen

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Southpaw prospect has found his niche in relief

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On September 1st the Detroit Tigers promoted left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt to the major league roster. Relatively anonymous a year ago, he’s had a solid 2017 season that included a stint in the Futures Game. Lefties with live arms have long lives and that may very well be true for Labourt. Let’s take a quick look.

Labourt was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He was an effective starter at the lower levels, notably in the 2014 Northwest League where he posted a 1.77 ERA in 17 starts. In July 2015 he was traded to the Tigers as a component in the David Price deal. His 2015 and 2016 seasons were quite mediocre.

That changed in 2017. The Tigers moved him to the bullpen and he thrived, posting a 2.17 ERA in 66 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with a 79/33 K/BB and just 43 hits allowed. So far in the majors he’s pitched five innings over five games with a 3/5 K/BB, four hits allowed and three runs given up.

Labourt is 6-4, 205, age 23, born March 7th, 1994. He throws hard for a lefty, clocked as high as 96 in the minors and working at 94 so far in the majors. He relies heavily on his slider, a plus pitch when he’s on, but his command of both pitches is erratic and the walk rate isn’t lying about the need to improve his control.

He has a change-up; scouting reports say this is a mediocre pitch that is well behind the fastball and slider, although the assessment at BrooksBaseball.net is pretty positive, noting that the change “generates an extremely high number of swings & misses” although he doesn’t use it much.

There’s no question that Labourt has good stuff and he is quite tough on left-handers, holding them to a .136 average this year in Triple-A. Whether he becomes a bullpen mainstay, a useful LOOGY, or a Quadruple-A roster-bouncer will depend on his control.