Detroit Tigers sign Nicaraguan pitcher 1 hour after he struck out 3 stars in World Baseball Classic

Duque Hebbert reportedly signs minor-league deal with Tigers

A general view at the start of the game between Team Puerto Rico and Nicaragua at loanDepot park on March 11, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Al Bello, 2023 Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers signed a Nicaraguan pitcher to a contract one hour after he struck out a trio of superstars from the Dominican Republic during a World Baseball Classic game.

A few days ago, Duque Hebbert, 21, wasn’t considered much of a prospect. He’s coming off a 15-game stint in the Nicaraguan Winter League in which he allowed 12 earned runs while striking out 18 batters in 20 innings. He posted a 5.40 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.

But Hebbert, a member of Team Nicaragua during the WBC, turned heads Monday (March 13) when he came in for the ninth inning against the Dominican Republic, trailing 6-1.

Hebbert began the inning by striking out Juan Soto, one of the best hitters on the planet, in three pitches. The at-bat was capped by a nasty 84 changeup just below the zone.

He then whiffed budding superstar Julio Rodriguez on a 2-2, 80 mph slider away.

After Manny Machado hit a two-out double, Hebbert came back to strike out Boston Red Sox slugger Rafael Devers after falling behind 3-1. The final pitch was another perfectly placed changeup at the bottom of the zone.

All three strikeouts came on swinging third strikes. In total, Hebbert racked up five whiffs on 19 pitches -- a dazzling 26% swinging strike rate.

His fastball hardly touched 90 mph, but the slider and changeup showed the Tigers enough to offer a minor league deal, according to multiple reports. The team has not yet made the move official.

The Tigers are still sorting out who will earn bullpen spots this spring. They need to replace the likes of Gregory Soto, Andrew Chafin, Joe Jimenez, and Michael Fulmer (deadline trade) -- four of A.J. Hinch’s highest-volume relievers from 2022.

It’s unlikely Hebbert will be considered for a role early in the 2023 campaign. Team Nicaragua will play its final WBC game at noon Tuesday, and then he can start familiarizing himself with the Tigers organization.

You can watch highlights from Hebbert’s inning on the MLB Film Room video below.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.