August 11th, 2014

Verlander leaves with right shoulder soreness

The Tigers handed the ball to Justin Verlander Monday night in desperate need of innings after Sunday’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto. They ended up with the shortest start of Verlander’s career, and their second injury in four days to their star-studded rotation.

Verlander was removed from the Tigers’ series opener against the Pirates at PNC Park with what the team termed right shoulder soreness. He’ll be further evaluated on Tuesday.

It’s the first major injury concern of Verlander’s career. For all the pitches and innings the former AL Cy Young winner has thrown, Verlander has been remarkably durable, making at least 30 starts every full season in his big league career and at least 33 starts each season since 2008.

Verlander gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits in his only inning, his cause hindered by two errors and another outfield misplay behind him. His fastball sat in the low-90s, which isn’t unusual for him in the first inning, but was clearly hittable.

At one point, with the Tigers bullpen quickly warming, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand visited the mound, seeing some reason for concern, but Verlander said he was fine.

Verlander finished out the inning, then was due to bat third in the second inning. However, both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello seemed to be preparing to pinch-hit for Verlander. Both were caught on the television broadcast with bats and batting helmets in the dugout while Verlander stood in the on-deck circle.

Verlander ended up stepping to the plate and laying down a sacrifice bunt. He then marched down and steps, through the dugout and into the clubhouse without pause. Meanwhile, Justin Miller continued to warm in Detroit’s bullpen.

Once the inning ended, Miller entered from the bullpen. Verlander never emerged back from the dugout.

The Tigers made three roster call-ups from Triple-A Toledo Monday afternoon to make sure they had enough available relievers for the game. With Tigers relievers needing to cover at least seven innings, more moves could soon be coming, this time potentially from Double-A Erie, less than two hours away from Pittsburgh. The SeaWolves were off on Monday.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Sorry to be late on this. As expected, Miguel Cabrera gets the start at third base, with Victor Martinez at first. Cabrera is the only current Tiger who faced Jeff Locke in his previous meeting with Detroit last May.

Justin Verlander, meanwhile, faces a Pirates lineup without Andrew McCutchen (who was placed on the DL) and Neil Walker, who might not be far behind.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (2-for-3, 2 doubles off Jeff Locke)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-5, 3 K’s vs. Locke)
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Justin Verlander, P

PIRATES (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B (1-for-8)
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Russell Martin, C (6-for-19, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Ike Davis, 1B (1-for-2, K)
  5. Starling Marte, CF
  6. Travis Snider, LF (5-for-13, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 5 K’s)
  7. Jordy Mercer, SS
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B (3-for-14, HR, 2 walks, 5 K”s)
  9. Jeff Locke, P

Roster fallout from 19 innings in Toronto

Just arrived in Pittsburgh, and it appears half the Mud Hens bullpen might not be far behind.

The Tigers left Toronto Sunday night with two open roster spots from their Sunday morning DL moves — more on that in a minute — so there figured to be at least two relievers coming to the Tigers’ aid after their 19-inning loss to the Blue Jays. However, John Wagner of the Toledo Blade reports that three relievers were being called up from Triple-A Toledo after the Hens game Sunday night.

Lefty Ian Krol and right-hander Justin Miller are rejoining the Tigers, according to Wagner. Krol just got there a week and a half ago, ironically to get more regular work. Miller spent a couple different stints in Detroit from mid-April to mid-May, regrouped in Toledo and posted very good numbers in late-inning work, including a 1.45 ERA and 23 hits over 37 1/3 innings.

The third reliever, according to Wagner, is minor-league veteran Kevin Whelan, who rejoined the organization this year after being traded to the Yankees in 2006 as a prospect in the Gary Sheffield deal. He has 20 saves for the Hens, having allowed eight runs on 26 hits over 39 innings with 48 strikeouts.

Miller and Krol can simply fill the spots of injured Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria. Whelan not only needs a 40-man roster opening (they’re out of long-term injuries to put on the 60-day DL), but three call-ups mean somebody on the current roster would have to be sent down. The logical answer would be one of the relievers who pitched long Sunday and won’t be available for a few days (Blaine Hardy and Pat McCoy both pitched three innings).

If all three are called up at the same time, that gives Detroit at least three relievers available to pitch Monday night. Al Alburquerque, who pitched an inning-plus in two appearances over three games in Toronto, likely makes four. Joba Chamberlain could make five, but he has pitched each of the last two games.

One reliever, either one of these call-ups or somebody else, will likely have to make way for Robbie Ray to be called up for his start in Sanchez’s spot. He’s currently scheduled to start Wednesday. Rick Porcello’s two-plus innings, however, put his Tuesday start in question.

If Porcello starts Tuesday as previously planned or bounces back with an extra day of rest, then the Tigers won’t need to call up another reliever from Toledo. If not, the Tigers likely will have to make yet another move to add a starting pitcher.

The lingering question, and the irony of it all, is going to be how much of this roster shuffle could have been avoided had the Tigers gotten a reliever from Toledo to fill one of the DL spots in time for Sunday’s game. Officially, Detroit made the DL moves Sunday morning, and manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday it was nearly impossible to get a call-up to Toronto in time for the game. Whether the Tigers could have or should have had a call-up ready to move in case is an interesting debate.

“We didn’t think we could get them here,” Ausmus said. “Of course, if we knew we had til 7 o’clock, maybe we would have.”

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