June 20th, 2012

Updated: Laird leaves game with left hamstring cramping

UPDATE: The Tigers optioned Luke Putkonen back to Toledo to make room for Jacob Turner in time for his start Thursday, but they held off on activating Alex Avila until they can assess Laird in the morning. If he’s good enough to serve as a backup catcher, the Tigers will likely option Bryan Holaday to Toledo. If Laird is going to miss anything more than a day or two, don’t be surprised if he ends up on the 15-day DL.

“He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow. We’ll see what we have to do,” Leyland said. “It’s obviously pretty simple: Holaday will either stay and Laird will go on the DL, or Holaday will go down and Alex will be here and Gerald will be backing him up.”

Just as the Tigers were readying to get back to full strength at catcher with Alex Avila’s return, the injury bug has struck again. This time, it again hit Gerald Laird, who left Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals with what the team termed as left hamstring cramping.

Laird is listed as day-to-day.

Laird missed time earlier this month with a strained right hamstring when he tried to hustle out an infield hit. This time, he seemingly injured himself tagging up from first base on a fly ball to center field. He grabbed at the back of his leg afterwards, prompting head athletic trainer Kevin Rand to emerge from the dugout.

Laird limped back to the clubhouse almost immediately. Bryan Holaday pinch-ran for him, then replaced him at catcher for the sixth inning.

The Tigers are expected to have Avila back for Thursday’s series finale, so they’re covered. However, they’ll have to decide whether they can afford to option Holaday back to Triple-A Toledo to open a spot for Avila, as had been previously expected. Avila went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring.

If the Tigers send out Holaday, they could have Avila as their only healthy catcher, with utility player Don Kelly as an emergency backup. But they also have limited options for sending out other players. Ryan Raburn reached the five-year mark in Major League service time on Wednesday, earning him the right to decline an option to the minor leagues. Danny Worth had been splitting time at second base before ceding more starts to Ramon Santiago lately.

Valverde out at least next few days with sprained wrist

Jose Valverde will miss at least the next 3-4 days with what has been disagnosed with a sprained right wrist, but neither the closer nor the Tigers expect him to require a stint on the disabled list while he recovers.

Valverde, who suffered the injury while warming up in the bullpen Tuesday night, underwent an MRI exam that showed inflammation around the flexor tendon in his wrist, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday afternoon. He’ll wear a wrist immobilizer for the next few days before he’s re-examined.

If he’s pain-free at that point, he can try to throw.

“We’re just going to treat him day to day and go from there,” Rand said.

The Tigers medical staff is not expecting that to take long.

“We’re not thinking it’s a long-term situation,” Rand said.

Earlier, Valverde said he still felt soreness in the wrist, but that it was a little better than it was last night.

“Last night, when I threw the last pitch, I couldn’t move my fingers,” Valverde said. “It hurt too bad last night. I couldn’t do anything. I’m a guy who wants to compete all the time. Something simple, I’d never shut it down. But last night, I couldn’t do anything. …

“It’s better today than yesterday. That’s why I think it’ll soon go away.”

With Valverde out, manager Jim Leyland he’ll use his relievers by matchup when it comes to save situations. Phil Coke earned the save Tuesday night, but Joaquin Benoit filled in for Valverde while he was sidelined with back soreness earlier this season.

Octavio Dotel also has closing experience over his many Major League stops and stepped in to get the save after Valverde’s back issues forced him out May 15 at Chicago, though he failed miserably in a save situation a week earlier in Seattle.

Even if he’s not closing, though, Dotel has the potential to be a critical piece. If Benoit’s closing, or if Benoit’s off, Dotel becomes the primary right-handed reliever.

“He’s a big key for us right now,” Leyland said.

Wednesday lineups: Tigers vs. Cardinals

Same as yesterday.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Brennan Boesch, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Rick Porcello

Avila rehab update

The catching portion of Alex Avila’s rehab assignment has ended without a hitch. He caught five innings of Adam Wilk and went 2-for-2 with a walk in the Mud Hens win over Lehigh Valley.

The evening gave Avila plenty of chances to test his hamstring while running the bases, which was arguably the biggest question going into this assignment. He was caught in a first-inning rundown on the basepaths and come out of it all right, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade.

Avila is scheduled to serve as the DH for the Mud Hens Wednesday night. He’s also scheduled to serve as a celebrity ice cream scooper at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit Wednesday morning. Unless something happens Wednesday, Avila will be activated from the DL in time for Thursday’s game against the Cardinals, which fellow Mud Hen Jacob Turner is scheduled to start.

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