Detroit Tigers have to ‘figure out some things’ after pitcher injuries hit them hard

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers are battling the injury bug.

In the past four games, the Tigers have used relievers to complete 27 of a possible 37 innings. They have needed 693 pitches to get through these games, including 223 pitches in Saturday’s 15-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox — featuring position players Jake Rogers and Harold Castro on the mound.

During Monday’s 10-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, starter Matthew Boyd departed in the third inning with left triceps discomfort. Reliever Alex Lange couldn’t make it through the fifth inning because of right shoulder discomfort. To beat the Royals, Tigers manager AJ Hinch used a franchise-record nine pitchers in a nine-inning game.

“We’re going to have to figure out some things,” Hinch said. “We’re pretty beat up in the ‘pen, and we’re going to have to try to piece it back together.”

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Here’s the list of injured players on the 40-man roster, as of Tuesday morning: LHP Matthew Boyd (left arm discomfort), RHP Alex Faedo (Tommy John), RHP Rony Garcia (left knee sprain), LHP Derek Holland (left shoulder inflammation), RHP Alex Lange (right shoulder discomfort), RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right pectorals strain), RHP Julio Teheran (right shoulder strain), RHP Spencer Turnbull (right forearm strain), LHP Joey Wentz (Tommy John rehabilitation), C Grayson Greiner (left hamstring strain), C Wilson Ramos (lumbar spine strain), OF Derek Hill (right shoulder sprain), OF Victor Reyes (left intercostal strain) and 3B Jeimer Candelario (COVID-19 intake).

“It’s a reality check,” Hinch said June 6. “It’s going around in 30 clubhouses. It can happen at any given point with guys. We always have to keep in the back of your mind that this is a very unique season coming off the pandemic. Subtle injuries, whether it’s soft tissue or structural, are going to happen over the course of a regular season.

“I think all of us around the league are somewhat paranoid over what’s possible at back end of this season for our arms. That’s why it’s a fine line walking your pitching staff through rest days, and are you going to use guys when you really want to in leverage, are you going to use them three days in a row, are you going to extend them out? To win games, you need to. But winning games might be costly down the road if you run a guy out of gas.”

Garcia was supposed to start Sunday’s bullpen-only game before blowing out his knee in Thursday’s warmups. He could miss the remainder of the season. Teheran seems far away from returning, considering he just started a throwing program in Lakeland. An August return could be the best-case scenario.

Turnbull, who recently arrived in Lakeland, might not return until the beginning of July. Also in Lakeland, Ramirez is on the mend and starting to pitch. Once he completes rehab outings in Toledo, the Tigers will consider bringing him to the majors.

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The timetable for Boyd’s return is unclear, and Lange seems destined for a stint on the injured list.

In other 40-man roster news, the Tigers demoted reliever Jason Foley to Triple-A Toledo after Monday’s win and will make a corresponding move before Tuesday’s contest. Foley pitched in four games — including his MLB debut — and five innings, with a 3.60 ERA.

Another reliever, Beau Burrows, was demoted to the Mud Hens after pitching in Saturday’s loss. He vomited on the mound because of an illness and was unable to complete the fifth inning before getting sent down. But he isn’t on the injured list.

Before Monday’s game, reliever Michael Fulmer came back from the 10-day injured list. He had been sidelined since May 30 with a right shoulder strain. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Royals, using 11 pitches.

“I’ve gone from throwing a maximum of six times a month to 14 times in May,” Fulmer, a starter turned reliever, said. “I felt good every time I pitched. Just after that (New York) Yankees series, when I finished that last game, the (shoulder) soreness never went away.

“I thought it was a little fatigue, maybe a couple days off will do it. Turns out, just a little inflammation on the shoulder. It happens with the body gets shocked like that with something different. Got it taken care of, and the body’s just adapting to getting used to this new role, which I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.”

What about the young arms?

As the injuries pile up, the Tigers need to protect 24-year-old starting pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Because they lack veteran experience, the jump from a 60-game to a 162-game season is a bit trickier to manage.

This season, Mize has pitched 70⅔ innings across 12 games. He has a 3.44 ERA with 22 walks and 59 strikeouts. Skubal has thrown 60 innings in 13 games (11 starts), with a 4.35 ERA, 29 walks and 74 strikeouts.

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Skubal shifted to the bullpen earlier this year to ease his workload, and at some point moving Mize to the bullpen or keeping his starts to two or three innings will become unavoidable.

Toward the end of June, it’s possible Mize will be limited to two or three innings in his starts until the All-Star break. Eventually, Skubal could go through a load management period again.

By protecting the young arms, however, the Tigers will need additional help from the minor leagues. A likely choice for a call up, as general manager Al Avila recently hinted, is top pitching prospect Matt Manning. The 23-year-old is the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Wily Peralta, who recently returned to the Mud Hens from a finger injury, is another option. Drew Hutchison is an accessible arm, as well.

Manning, 23, has an 8.07 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Toledo this season. He has 10 walks, 36 strikeouts and 11 home runs allowed in 32⅓ innings. Down to three starters (Mize, Skubal and Jose Urena), the Tigers might not be able to wait for Manning’s results to improve.

“There’s a lot of confidence in him,” Avila said last week. “There’s a lot of optimism there. We’ll let you know in due time when that (promotion) is going to happen. But I would be paying attention for sure.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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