July 28th, 2011

Alburquerque day-to-day with mild inflammation

The good news for Al Alburquerque is that the elbow issues that left him unable to pitch Wednesday don’t appear to be anything serious. An examination from the team medical staff Thursday morning revealed what head athletic trainer Kevin Rand characterized as mild inflammation around his elbow, which he hopes they can clear up with a little rest over the next few days.

“The flexor tendinitis, that’s fine,” Rand said. “He’s just got some mild inflammation around the joint now that we’ve just got to work through. It’s all inter-related.”

The bad news is that it’s a reminder that the Tigers still need to watch how their rookie relief sensation is used. As nasty as his slider can be, the temptation to overuse him can be a risk.

To be fair, the inflammation is a separate issue from the flexor tendinitis that landed him on the disabled list a few weeks ago. That was more around the forearm, though it was related to elbow. Still, the two different symptoms point towards the same reason to exercise caution with him.

Alburquerque hasn’t pitched since tossing a scoreless inning Sunday at Minnesota, but Rand said no issue popped up until Wednesday. The Tigers have been careful to watch his use since his return from the disabled list after the All-Star break. He has 4 1/3 scoreless innings with four stranded runners, a walk and six strikeouts since then.

The flexor tendinitis forced Alburquerque to the DL on July 1, leaving a hole in Detroit’s middle relief corps. But his stay on the DL was a minimal one, consisting mainly of rest for the arm.

Waiting for update on Alburquerque

The Tigers medical staff checked out Al Alburquerque this morning at Comerica Park, but no information was available as of game time. He was at the ballpark this morning, but disappeared into the training room area of the Tigers clubhouse. So at this point, we’re hoping for an update after the game.

Two interesting factors to consider:

  1. The immediate concern is how long, if at all, he’ll be out, and how long the Tigers can go without him before they have to consider calling up somebody. From a numbers and workload standpoint, the Tigers bullpen is fine. But take away Alburquerque even for a day or two, and as Wednesday showed, it leaves first-year pro Chance Ruffin as the only right-hander available before the eighth inning.
  2. If Alburquerque’s elbow has resurfaced as a concern, do the Tigers have to look into more relief help before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline? Even if it’s a short-term absence, the off and on issues make the elbow a longer-term concern. The Tigers popped up in rumors about Orioles reliever Koji Uehara the other day, and that was before this issue. Detroit wouldn’t necessarily need a setup man as insurance, but simply a middle reliever might end up being something to consider. That said, the Tigers have seen Phil Coke as an effective reliever against left- and right-handed hitters alike. The two options for right-handed help from the farm would be Ryan Perry and Lester Oliveros, but Detroit essentially said Ruffin was a better option than Oliveros when making Sunday’s move.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Angels

Long, stormy drive from Chicago last night, so I’m playing catch-up a little bit. Here are the lineups:

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Brennan Boesch, LF
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Carlos Guillen, 2B
  8. Andy Dirks, RF
  9. Don Kelly, 3B

P: Brad Penny

ANGELS

  1. Manny Aybar, SS
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Bobby Abreu, DH
  4. Vernon Wells, LF
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  7. Mark Trumbo, 1B
  8. Peter Bourjos, CF
  9. Jeff Mathis, C

P: Joel Pineiro

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