Results tagged ‘ Al Alburquerque ’

Alburquerque’s return crucial for Tigers

Alexi Ogando denied the Tigers a chance at a sweep of the Rangers. If Al Alburquerque is truly right with his arm, as he looked on Thursday, this might still end up being a huge game for the Tigers.

The Tigers now have David Pauley as another right-hander for the middle innings, but that doesn’t change one big fact about their bullpen makeup: They need Alburquerque and his strikeouts. His pitching Thursday in his first game action since July 24 suggests he has it back.

“Right now, I want to be healthy. No more injuries,” Alburquerque said afterwards.

Alburquerque missed nearly two weeks with inflammation around the ulnar nerve of his right elbow. He was cleared to pitch Tuesday and warmed up that night for a possible appearance, but never entered the game. With two outs in the eighth inning, he had his chance.

It was a three-run game, but manager Jim Leyland admitted later he was nervous like it was a closer than that.

“I was so thrilled when he went back out [for the ninth],” manager Jim Leyland said, “because the slider was 87 [mph] again and the fastball was 97 a few times. He hadn’t pitched in nine or 10 days, and he was probably a little tentative. He was probably wondering himself a little bit.

“I was alarmed, to be honest, after the first hitter. I was concerned. And then I saw it pick up, so I relaxed a little bit.”

The first hitter was a five-pitch walk to Ian Kinsler. Alburquerque settled down to retire the next four batters, including a strikeout of Josh Hamilton swinging at one of his nastier sliders.

“I felt a little shy at first, but I didn’t feel nervous,” Alburquerque said. “I felt really good today.”

That might be the best news to come  out of Thursday’s loss for the Tigers, who have had to juggle relievers to get through sixth and seventh innings without him.

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.

Alburquerque unavailable, to be checked out Thursday

While Chance Ruffin was warming up in the Tigers bullpen during the middle and later innings Wednesday, some were wondering why Al Alburquerque wasn’t, since he hadn’t pitched since Sunday. But a glance at the bullpen showed Alburquerque wasn’t out there.

The answer after the game was that Alburquerque wasn’t available. He played catch before the game, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, and was unable to go.

At this point, that’s about all that’s known. Manager Jim Leyland downplayed the situation, saying Alburquerque should be available for Thursday. Rand said Alburquerque will be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff on Thursday, and they’ll know more after that.

It’s unknown whether it’s the same problem that was bothering Alburquerque last month, landing him on the disabled list July 1 to rest his elbow. He came back after the All-Star break and has pitched well since.

Leyland using Alburquerque judiciously

A month ago, it would’ve been difficult to envision Jim Leyland turning to Al Alburquerque to protect a lead with the bases loaded. He can get a strikeout when he needs one, but the risk of backfire with a walk and no base open would just be too big the way he was pitching.

If Leyland had some alternatives, he might not be turning to him either. But with Joaquin Benoit pitching setup and Jose Valverde closing, and four left-handers in the bullpen, Alburquerque is the only right-hander available for the seventh inning or earlier.

“The point is,” Leyland said, “who do you bring in?”

For more reasons than one, Leyland has to watch his situations with Alburquerque. For better or for worse, Thursday was one. Alberquerque’s fly out from Adam Everett for the third out made it for the better.

It isn’t a situation where a strikeout is any better than an out put in play, but under the circumstances, Leyland felt Alburquerque had the best chance at an out there. He could’ve let Scherzer face Everett and put in a lefty against Sizemore, but he didn’t want to wait for that.

Alburquerque needed two sliders to get Everett. The first, he spotted for strike one. The second got a swing and a fly ball. He stayed on to pitch the seventh, albeit with a pair of 3-0 counts, and handed the lead to Benoit for the eighth.

It marked Alburquerque’s first string of pitching back-to-back days since the end of May, and his first string of three outings in four days in nearly a month. It’s a little unusual for an improving young reliever, but Leyland has to protect the arm right now.

“I got a little problem one week ago in my elbow,” Alburquerque said after Thursday’s game.

It was pain, Alburquerque said, when he threw his slider. That’s not necessarily unusual. But for someone whose slider unusually accounts for more than half of his pitches, obviously, that’s not good. But some rehab work with the medical staff, he said, has it feeling better.

It puts a little extra importance on the fastball, potentially to keep him from throwing too many sliders and putting too much more stress on the elbow. If he’s going to throw the fastball, he has to command it.

“Right now, I’m trying to come back with my fastball,” Alburquerque said. “I got sometimes scared to trust my slider. I tried to come back working with my two-seamer, too.”

Alburquerque hasn’t given up a run over his last 10 outings, covering nine innings in which he has struck out 16.

It’s an interesting factor for a bullpen that doesn’t have anyone else who can do quite what he can. At some point, the Tigers are going to add a right-handed reliever. Ideally, it would be Ryan Perry, if he can show he has fixed his early-season issues at Triple-A Toledo. If that doesn’t happen, though, it isn’t hard to envision right-handed middle relief on the Tigers’ priority list before the July 31 trade deadline.

Your guide to Tigers reliever nicknames

And you thought the Tigers bullpen lost its character when Phil Coke became a starter.

Daniel Schlereth is out there, and as it turns out, he’s a character. So is Brad Thomas, and so, apparently, is Brayan Villarreal.

Schlereth announced today that he wants to be known by his nickname, the Alaskan Assassin. He was born in Anchorage, so that makes sense. He also has been nicknamed the Baby Black Bear.

I told him that could be quite a tandem, the Alaskan Assassin and Agent P, otherwise known as Ryan Perry, or the Platypus. But Perry has earned a new nickname in the Tigers bullpen. After his DL stint with an eye infection, he’s now known as Cyclops.

On down the line it went. Brayan Villarreal? He’s known as Zorro, Schlereth said, because of the hair.

Al Alburquerque? Schlereth didn’t have one for him, but Villarreal said he’s known as Avatar, after the characters from the movie.

Jose Valverde? They don’t really need a nickname, or at least they don’t dare put one of him. But when Big Potato was mentioned, Valverde nodded in approval.

Brad Thomas? Nothing. They just make fun of the Aussie accent.

Joaquin Benoit? Nothing yet.

Offbeat? You bet. But look at it this way: It sure beats those mohawk haircuts Tigers relievers had last year around this time.