August 12th, 2014

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Edinson Volquez)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-3, triple, K)
  2. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3, K)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  5. Victor Martinez, 1B
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-1, 2 walks)
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Robbie Ray, P

PIRATES

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Jordy Mercer, SS
  4. Russell Martin, C
  5. Starling Marte, CF
  6. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
  7. Travis Snider, LF
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B
  9. Edinson Volquez, P

 

Verlander MRI shows inflammation, but no structural damage

Justin Verlander has been diagnosed with inflammation in his right shoulder, but no major structural damage that would keep the former American League MVP out for more than a start or two.

An MRI exam on Verlander’s sore shoulder revealed inflammation and what head athletic trainer Kevin Rand called “normal wear and tear” from the pitches and innings built up over the years, but nothing major. It was essentially the best-case scenario after Verlander left Monday’s game against the Pirates after one inning with soreness in his shoulder.

“Really, there was no major structural damage,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “At this point, we don’t expect him to go on the DL.”

Verlander is expected to miss his next turn in the rotation Sunday against the Mariners, but Rand said they’re hopeful of having him ready for next week’s road trip to Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

“I would say it’s the best news that we were expecting,” Rand said.

Verlander is scheduled to get another evaluation from team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos on Wednesday to determine a treatment plan, likely a combination of rest and medication.

“At this point right now, we’re looking at hopefully he’ll only miss one start and we’ll go from there,” Rand said.

Robbie Ray would start Sunday assuming Verlander can’t. The Tigers have an off-day Monday, so they can go without a fifth starter until next Saturday, when they have a day-night doubleheader against the Twins at Target Field.

As the Verlander vigil begins …

Not sure what we’ll find out on Verlander today. In the meantime, to review, here’s what we know …

  • Verlander says it’s not pain, at least it wasn’t during the game, but his pitches didn’t have the same life Monday. “Warming up, it didn’t feel great,” he said after the game. “Once I was out there on the mound in a game situation, it didn’t feel too bad. It just wasn’t there at all. That’s the reason I wanted to go back out there.”
  • It’s not the first time he has dealt with it. “It’s been lingering for a while,” Verlander said, without saying how long it has lingered.
  • Verlander has been dealing with inconsistent stuff for most of the season. Sometimes, the velocity on his fastball has been down, other times he has hit 96-98. Sometimes the command on his secondary pitches has been shaky, other times he has been able to spot a curveball when he needs it.
  • Verlander isn’t discounting the idea that all the adjustments he has been making, or all the work he has had to put in following offseason core muscle surgery, has had an impact. “I don’t know. That’s a good question, especially regarding the surgery,” he said. “I don’t know if your body’s going to adjust and adapt. Maybe that can cause some extra soreness or throw you out of whack a little bit. But hopefully the main thing is no structural damage. That’s what you hope for, just inflammation or whatever it may be.”
  • Verlander has thrown 21,736 regular-season pitches since 2009, 1500 more than the next-highest total in the Majors, James Shields. And that doesn’t include postseason pitches.
  • Verlander has never spent time on a Major League disabled list.

With all the pitches Verlander has thrown, and all the work he has put in, there’s likely to be some wear and tear. Given that, there’s a decent chance something shows up on the MRI that he has been pitching through — maybe just this year, maybe longer than that. The suspense might be the severity.

The chaotic state of the second-place Tigers

The question of scoreboard watching came up to Brad Ausmus at some point yesterday. At that point, he was looking at a rotation plan that includes Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer the next two nights, and may or may not include Justin Verlander for Sunday, or next week, or anytime soon.

In other words, for all those asking about how the Tigers are watching the Royals, they have their own worries — a lot of them. 

“You lose [Anibal] Sanchez, you lose [Joakim] Soria, and one of the best pitchers in Tigers history is being evaluated,” Ausmus said. “I wouldn’t say this has been fun the last few days. Not to mention that we went 19 innings and our bullpen was overworked, overtaxed. But you just keep plugging away, and maybe two weeks from now, we’ll look back and laugh about the road trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh.”

 

There was no laughing in the Tigers clubhouse Monday night. There was barely any talk, really. It was a quiet — mainly an exhausted quiet, but a real quiet clubhouse.

“We need to get our feet back on the ground right now,” said Dave Dombrowski, who has become an air traffic controller with all the shuttling between Toledo, Erie, Pittsburgh and Detroit the last 24 hours or so. “We’ve had a couple times with starters getting hurt leaving games early, you’re bringing guys up, you’re moving them around, we lost a bullpen guy. We need to kind of get back. We’ll see what happens.”

They’ll get some semblance of order back on Thursday, when the stable part of the rotation comes back around. Max Scherzer faces the Pirates that night at Comerica Park, followed by Rick Porcello (remember him?), David Price, and then either Verlander or a fill-in. If Verlander has to miss time, Ray could start Sunday and then the Tigers could use Monday’s off-day to skip a spot.

Their bullpen should stabilize a bit tonight. As rough as Monday was, the fact that the Tigers got through the loss using only one reliever who pitched in Sunday’s marathon was a blessing for them. The late-inning bullpen group should all be available Tuesday, as is likely Phil Coke.

The positional roster remains to be seen. Last night gave them a chance to get a relatively normal night of sleep after they looked beaten in the turnaround from Sunday’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto to Monday’s game in Pittsburgh. They actually showed some decent signs of life as the game went on, mounting a pair of rallies.

The challenge in all of that is the schedule doesn’t get easier. They’ll have off-days on their next two Mondays, but they’ll have day-night doubleheaders on the ensuing two Saturdays to counter that. Even with an off-day, they’ll play 24 games in 23 days starting next week. They’re in the midst of a stretch of 55 games in 55 days, and you could make a case it’s essentially 56 games in 55 days given those 10 extra innings they played Sunday.

They’re going to be taxed and tested again. Count on it. And if you think their depth has been tested now, check back in a couple weeks.

The Royals won’t keep winning every game. The Tigers probably won’t keep losing at a rate of three-of-four like they have recently. The question, now that this is a race, is how many games they can start winning again in this stretch.

 

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