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On Fister, Dombrowski refused to accept 'no'

Posted on: October 1, 2011 2:18 pm
 
NEW YORK -- The first time Dave Dombrowski asked about Doug Fister, Jack Zduriencik said no, he's not available.

And the second time, and the third time, and . . .

How many times was it, Dave, a dozen?

"At least," Dombrowski said.

Twenty? Twenty-five?

"Probably," Dombrowski said. "Over a three-week period, we called a couple of times a day. Sometimes three times."

Zduriencik, the Mariners general manager, kept saying no. Dombrowski, the Tigers general manager, refused to take no for an answer.

"He opened the door at times, and then he would close it," Dombrowski said. "As long as it was open a little, we kept trying."

Eventually, on the day before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Tigers got Fister and David Pauley in exchange for four young players.

Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA, so you could say that Dombrowski's persistence is the reason the Tigers are in the playoffs. With Friday night's rain, Fister will in effect start two games in the Division Series against the Yankees, so you could say that he is the Tigers' best chance for advancing.

Fister will pick up for Justin Verlander when Game 1 resumes in the middle of the second inning Saturday night. If the series goes the five-game distance, Fister is now on schedule to start the deciding game.

And all because when Zduriencik said no, Dombrowski kept trying. And trying.

One Tigers person said he had never seen Dombrowski so determined to get a deal done. Dombrowski said he could only compare it to his pursuit of Mike Lowell in the summer and fall of 1995, when Lowell was with the Yankees and Dombrowski was running the Marlins.

"I worked on that one for six months," he said.

The Tigers identified Fister early, deciding that the combination of his ability and his contract status (he can't be a free agent until after 2015) made him the right fit. The Tigers looked at every pitcher who was or might be available (they made a try for James Shields, but Rays GM Andrew Friedman gave them a firmer "no" than Zduriencik did), but for most of the month, Fister was their top target.

In fact Tigers people insist, they preferred Fister to Ubaldo Jimenez, even if the price for the two had been the same (which it wasn't).

Their first offer for Fister, sources say, included none of the four players who were eventually in the deal (Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez and Chance Ruffin). No one can remember how many other permutations were offered before Zduriencik agreed.

What does seem certain is that the Tigers were the one team that wasn't scared off when Zduriencik said no. Plenty of teams needed pitching, but no one else tried nearly as hard for Fister.

In the end, the Tigers thought they gave up a lot. They view Martinez as a future star at third base, think Ruffin has a chance to pitch very well in the big leagues and view Wells as a potential starting outfielder.

"I guess I'm old school," Dombrowski said. "You don't try to 'win' a trade."

And, apparently, you don't take no for an answer.
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