The tipoff came last July 24 when Jeff Robinson had his split-finger pitch darting elusively away from the Baltimore Orioles.
He had a no-hitter going against them for seven innings in Tiger Stadium before consecutive home runs by Mike Devereaux and Brady Anderson snapped his magic.
Robinson went on to win, 8-2, and the Orioles brass was impressed suitably.
"That hard forkball at times can handcuff a team," general manager Roland Hemond said. "He pitched a terrific game against us, and Frank [manager Frank Robinson] talked about maybe getting this guy."
Yesterday, they did, dealing Mickey Tettleton to the Tigers for a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander who has a 36-26 major-league record in four seasons.
"He's a very imposing figure," Hemond said. "A little guy like me likes to get all these big, powerful people on his side."
Robinson, who made more than $400,000 last year by reachin some incentives, is eligible for salary arbitration, but he said from San Diego, "hopefully, everything can get done very easily with the Orioles and I can get to winning games.
"I'm very excited about this. About the middle part of last year, I kind of hinted about wanting to be traded. I felt the change would be good for me. When the Tigers called me, I said, 'Thank you very much.'
"I've always had a lot of respect for the Orioles, and with that speed they have in the outfield and defensive strength up the middle, it has to be better for me. Anything would be better than pitching in Tiger Stadium."
He was 10-9 with a 5.96 earned run average and is prone to wildness, walking 88 and throwing 16 wild pitches in 145 innings last season. In five of 27 starts, he did not finish the third inning, but he also pitched a complete-game shutout against Texas and combined on a two-hit shutout against Boston.
He has also been plagued by injuries, including a stress fractur in his right forearm that curtailed his pitching for the final month.
The highest total of innings he has ever pitched was 172 in 198 when he went 13-6 with a 2.98 era and was en route to a big year when a circulatory disorder shut him down in August.
Robinson said the stress fracture is "completely healed" and he has started throwing. "This trade kind of gives you the excitement of being a kid again. With all the things going on in Detroit [front-office changes], I think I'm fortunate to get out."
He said the injuries have taught him to be "a completely different pitcher" if he has to. "There was a stretch when I threw nothing but fastballs and still won."
The Tigers figured they could part with him because of a host of candidates for the starting rotation, particularly if Jack Morris re-signs with them.
He figures to move into the spot vacated by the trade of Pete Harnisch to Houston last week, provided his health holds up.
"We replenished the pitching in a hurry," said Hemond. "Now, we've only lost one pitcher overall, and it hasn't depleted us at all. There are a lot of other candidates.
"I can't say where he fits in because it's always competitive. But he's got a good track record."