It’s not good news, but it’s far from the worst news.
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, after consulting with several doctors including Dodgers and Rams head physician Dr. Neal L. Ettrache, does not appear to have any structural damage in his left elbow. Manager AJ Hinch said Friday that tests confirmed that he’s dealing with muscular tendinitis.
As Hinch feared, though, Boyd will be shut down until at least after the All-Star break.
“We will take a conservative approach and make sure the inflammation is out,” he said. “We don’t want any issue moving forward. The good news is that the big topics around elbows, ligaments, it seems like that’s been cleared by a number of doctors.
“The bad sign is, we’re going to miss him for a few weeks as he works his way back into a throwing program.”
Boyd, 30, has made 123 starts and thrown 621.2 innings for the Tigers since 2017 and has not had any serious arm issues. Through his first seven starts this season, he posted a 1.94 ERA and holding opponents to a .203 batting average.
Over the last six, though, the ERA jumped to 5.59 with opponents hitting .298.
Boyd, the Tigers Opening Day starter, and Spencer Turnbull (forearm strain) are both expected to be out until after the All-Star break. That leaves veteran Jose Urena, scheduled to start Friday against the Angels, and three rookies — Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning — in the rotation right now.
Veteran Wily Peralta, who hasn’t started a game in the big leagues since 2017 and didn’t pitch at all last season, will take Boyd’s spot in the rotation on Saturday.
“I’m not going to bring back Casey, Tarik or Matt on regular rest unless I have to,” Hinch said, meaning he’s not going to move them up just to cover the open spot in the rotation. “That spot in the rotation (Boyd’s) will continue to roll forward, even though we have an off-day Monday.
“We’re going to stay conservative with our young pitchers and make sure they get as much rest as we can give them from start to start.”
Mize will start the finale in Anaheim Sunday. Then after the off-day Monday, Skubal and Manning will start against the Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday. Hinch hasn’t committed to keeping Peralta in the rotation beyond Saturday.
Hole in the defense
You probably don’t need to see the number to know the Tigers have struggled defensively at shortstop this season. But the number is staggering.
Tigers shortstops, according to Sports Info Solutions, are a minus-15 in defensive runs saved. They are a minus-16 at all other positions combined. The only position in baseball that grades out worse defensively are the Arizona Diamondbacks center fielders (minus-17).
“That’s a premium position and a very important one, obviously,” Hinch said. “It’s involved in as many plays as any position on the field. The more consistent play we can get there, the better. We just have to keep pushing our guys to get better.”
It’s been a revolving door at that position, mostly because Hinch continues to search for some consistency. Willi Castro was moved over to second base after struggling in April. Niko Goodrum is the primary shortstop now, but he’s struggled (minus-6 defensive runs saved). Hinch has used Harold Castro, Isaac Paredes and Zack Short there, as well.
General manager Al Avila said last week the club could look to bring in an established shortstop from outside the organization this offseason. But for the rest of this season, what you see is what you get. The solution has to come from within.
The shortstop prospect that’s probably closest to being big-league ready is Ryan Kreidler, who is just in his first season at Double-A Erie. Wenceel Perez and Trei Cruz are at High-A West Michigan and Gage Workman is at Low-A Lakeland.
“We’re going to keep working with our guys and keep trying to get better,” Hinch said. “We need more consistent play. We’re going to continue to try the guys that we have and see how much better we can make everybody.”
Around the horn
► Catcher Grayson Greiner was activated off the injured list Friday and optioned to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers are going to stay with rookie catchers Jake Rogers and Eric Haase for now. Greiner and Dustin Garneau give the Tigers some veteran depth at Toledo.
► Left-handed pitching prospect Joey Wentz (ranked No. 10 in the organization) made his longest start Thursday since coming back from Tommy John surgery. He went five innings and threw 84 pitches at Low-A Lakeland. He struck out four and walked two.
Tigers at Angels
► 10:07 p.m.
► TV/Radio: FS1, 97.1
► RHP Wily Peralta (0-0, 0.00), Tigers: This will be his first start in the big leagues since May 14, 2017. He spent the bulk of 2018 and 2019 in the bullpen, including a stint as the closer for the Royals. But he started for the first five years of his career in Milwaukee and won 17 games in 2014. He is taking the rotation spot of Matthew Boyd, who is out with an elbow injury.
► LHP Patrick Sandoval (1-2, 3.51), Angels: This will be his sixth start and he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of the first five. His change-up is his weapon of choice and it’s filthy. Opponents are 6 for 46 (.130) against it with 21 strikeouts. The swing and miss rate he’s getting with that pitch is 59%. He throws it at 84-85 mph off 93-94 mph four-seam and two-seam fastballs.