Dotel still dealing with elbow inflammation
The Tigers did not have an effective Octavio Dotel the last time they had to stretch their bullpen into extra innings Wednesday at Seattle.
On Sunday, they didn’t have Dotel at all.
If they don’t have him available for their next game Tuesday against the Royals, there’s some serious question whether they can go short-handed in their bullpen again.
Going into Sunday’s series finale against the Angels, Dotel was supposedly available to pitch. The Tigers had some question about how effectively he has been pitching lately after missing games last weekend with elbow inflammation, but he has available to pitch.
After a 4-3 loss, however, in which right-handed slugger Mark Trumbo ended it with a walkoff homer off left-hander Phil Coke, manager Jim Leyland summed up Dotel’s status with two words: Not available.
He didn’t get more specific than that, and he didn’t answer questions about any possible roster move. Dotel admitted a few minutes later that the elbow was an issue again.
“The inflammation’s still there,” Dotel said. “It doesn’t go away. We’re just going to see how it will be on Tuesday.”
Dotel downplayed the injury a bit, saying it isn’t pain but swelling.
“I haven’t gotten the swelling to go away,” he said. “It’s still there. I’m just trying to get through that, but it’s still there and hopefully we just found out a way to get out.”
Dotel has pitched just 4 2/3 innings over six outings so far this year, so it’s a small sample size, but his average fastball velocity is down about three miles per hour from last year according to fangraphs.com. That said, the Tigers have been bringing him along slowly since spring because of his limited work in Spring Training and during the World Baseball Classic, and his next birthday will begin with the number 4. Still, he has never averaged less than 91 mph on his fastball during a season; he’s currently averaging 89.5.
Dotel last pitched Friday. His hope is that by Tuesday, three days of rest will have cleared up the swelling. If it hasn’t, the Tigers probably have a decision to make. Unlike last weekend, they can’t skip Rick Porcello for a start and put him in the bullpen for a few days. The best they could do is push his start back by a day.
Because Dotel pitched Friday, the Tigers could only backdate a move to the disabled list by a few days, meaning they’d still have to shelve him for close to two weeks. If Leyland feels they need a full bullpen against the Royals, they might have little choice.
If they did make a DL move, the question of who would replace Dotel could be interesting. Would they promote Bruce Rondon this early in the season for what would almost surely not be a closing role? Would they move their other relievers up and add Luis Marte or Luke Putkonen as a middle reliever? Don’t rule out the possibility of the Tigers signing Jose Valverde to a Major League contract and promoting him, either; if they’ve seen enough of his stuff to believe he can pitch and fill a void for them, it might not matter how much minor league time he has so far.