Armando Galarraga: The road to his perfect game blown call

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga has had an up-and-down few years, culminating in Wednesday night's perfect game blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.

Paul Sancya/AP
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland (c.) yells at first base umpire Jim Joyce (r.) after a perfect game thrown by Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was lost to a blown call in the ninth inning.

Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tigers pitcher robbed of a perfect game by umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call, has been gracious about his lost diamond immortality. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Galarraga is just happy to be pitching – and pitching well – at the major league level.

Galarraga’s career in recent years has resembled the stock market. He’s been way up, and way down. At this point he’d surely settle for a stable Armando Index consisting of quality six-inning starts and an ERA of 4.00. A perfect game? Who are you kidding?

The Tigers acquired Armando in February 2008 from the Texas Rangers in a swap of then-minor leaguers. He got called up to the majors in April of that year, to replace the injured and ineffective Dontrelle Willis (whom the Tigers last week finally unloaded by trading him to the Diamondbacks.)

He pitched far better than Tiger fans anticipated. He finished 2008 with a 13-7 record and a 3.73 ERA, and ranked fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. In fact, he was one of the few bright spots in a generally dismal Tabbie year.

Galarraga did so well that manager Jim Leyland tapped him as his opening day starter in 2009. He won. And then it all fell apart.

Galarraga throws sliders as much as any pitcher in the game, and the bite on his slider deserted him. He ended 2009 with a 6-10 record and a 5.64 ERA. He entered spring training this year as a contestant in a Tiger reality series: Who Wants to Be the Fifth Starter? He lost to the aforementioned Mr. Willis for two reasons: 1. Willis gets paid $23 million a year, and it’s tough for an owner to feel like they’re wasting that money. 2. Galarraga pitched poorly anyway.

He was the first starting pitcher cut from major league camp. He started this year in the minors.

But at some point during his stay in AAA Toledo he rediscovered his slider. With Willis’ performances bouncing between OK and “Hmmm,” Galarraga earned his way out of minor league purgatory and back to the big stage.

“I just want to thank this organization for believing in me,” he said after last night’s game.


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