Fien finds himself baseball's traveling man
Pitcher member of Tigers, Red Sox and Jays in span of a week
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Fien has an odd good-luck charm, an Allen Iverson bobblehead that a family member gave him years ago. He has brought it with him wherever he's pitched, even to Puerto Rico for winter ball over the offseason. When he forgot it in Puerto Rico when he returned to the United States, a teammate brought it back and gave it to him once he got to camp.
It's been an odd kind of luck for Fien lately.
Iverson has changed teams quite a bit in his career, but he has nothing on Fien. A.I. has bounced around four teams in the past two years. Fien is on his third team in barely more than a week.
Welcome to life on the waiver wire, where any team's decision can send you packing. Countless players pass through waivers unclaimed every year. Fien was claimed twice.
As the former Tiger spoke with Detroit reporters on Sunday, he was on his third day as a Blue Jay. That has officially outlasted his Red Sox career from earlier in the week.
"That's why I was worried about coming in today," Fien said. "I was like, 'Here it is, the moment of truth. And my jersey's still here!'"
Fien has a good sense of humor, which made his travels last week a story he could chuckle about as his career twisted and turned. He was known for making a joke or two in the Tigers clubhouse, where he spent the first four years of his pro career. He wasn't really known for anything in his Red Sox tenure, which he estimated at about 48 hours.
"I didn't even make it to practice," he said. "I was supposed to go out and throw. Before that happened, they told me I was a Toronto Blue Jay."
The reasons for all the moves were completely separate and totally random, but they were timed perfectly to make the week an adventure Fien can tell his kids about someday. It began when the Tigers' monthlong flirtation with free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon ended in a signing.
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Once Major League Baseball approved Damon's contract on Feb. 23, the Tigers had to open a space for him on their 40-man roster. Fien had been one of Detroit's pitching prospects the past couple of years, but the club has enough depth that it could afford taking the risk of losing him on waivers.
Fien had been in camp in Lakeland, Fla., for about a week when the Tigers designated his contract for assignment. Detroit had 10 days to either trade him, release him or outright him to the Minors. To do the latter, he had to pass through waivers unclaimed.
The Tigers didn't figure on that happening.
"I expect he'll be pitching in a Major League camp somewhere," manager Jim Leyland said at the time.
That could have been with Detroit, if Fien cleared waivers and the Tigers outrighted him. They then could have invited him back to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
In the meantime, though, he couldn't be in their camp. While Fien was in limbo, the Tigers let him work out at their Minor League complex across the street to keep fresh. Minor League camp hadn't started yet, and the only players working out there were doing so on their own.
"There was a certain time where guys could go out there and throw," Fien said, "so I just went out with those guys. We went to the gym together, and that was fine. I didn't feel awkward at all. Some of the guys didn't even know."
There was a rumor about a trade, but nothing happened. Fien nearly passed through waivers, but then the Red Sox put in their claim to add depth to their relief corps. Unable to work out a trade, Boston got the rights to Fien last Monday. Fien packed his bags, called his mom, made the 2 1/2-hour trip to Fort Myers, made his introductions and underwent a physical.
Just about as soon as the Red Sox acquired Fien, however, they apparently tried to clear him through waivers again to open a roster spot again. The Blue Jays, who come before the Red Sox in the waiver order based on 2009 season records, did not put a claim on Fien when he was first put on waivers. This time they did. The difference apparently had to do with the health of pitcher Scott Richmond, whom they placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room to claim Fien.
The move took place on Thursday. Fien had barely been in Boston's camp.
"Some of the coaches, I didn't even meet half of them," he said. "It's not like they didn't make me feel welcome, but it was just awkward for me."
Fien did get a chance to meet Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
"Actually, [the move] was within 12 hours after that," Fien said.
Off he went again, and back he went to the phones -- first to call his agent to find out what was going on, then to his mom again.
"I called my mom, and then my mom throws it on Facebook," Fien said. "And then, all of a sudden, when it's on Facebook, boom, I'm getting text messages: 'Red Sox Nation, baby!' So everyone knew, and then I got [sent] over to Toronto. Called my mom again, and then everyone's texting: 'Blue Jay Nation! Blue Jay Nation!' "
When Fien arrived in Dunedin on Friday, one of the first things he asked was if he could throw off a mound. He hadn't done that since Feb. 28 -- in Tigers camp. Before he could do that, though, he had to undergo a physical.
"I think I lead the league in physicals," he joked. He's also near the top in jersey numbers. He was No. 41 in Tigers camp, then No. 84 in Red Sox camp, though he never got to wear that number. He's wearing No. 86 now. But he feels like he's in a good situation, with a chance to find a home.
As he unpacked his bags and his Iverson bobblehead, he found some Red Sox hats in the bottom of his bag.
"I didn't want them anyway, so I just went out there and I gave them away to the kids," he said. "I was like, 'Get them out of here!' "
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.