Injured starter Tyler Alexander details how Detroit Tigers learned of his left elbow sprain

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers left-hander Tyler Alexander has felt elbow pain for the past month.

Although Alexander felt healthy enough to pitch, the 27-year-old wasn’t in perfect shape for any of his four starts this season. He changed his mechanics to ease some of the stress on his elbow.

“Eventually, I just wasn’t able to pronate,” Alexander said Wednesday. “That was my biggest issue. Throwing a changeup and anything arm side was starting to get pretty painful.”

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The Tigers placed Alexander on the 15-day injured list Monday, retroactive to Saturday, with a left elbow sprain. He will stay with the Tigers for the upcoming road trip against the Houston Astros, from Thursday through Sunday, before reporting to Lakeland, Florida, to restart his throwing program.

Alexander said the MRI results on his elbow showed inflammation.

He isn’t sure how many starts he will miss, deferring to head athletic trainer Doug Teter and manager A.J. Hinch for his return-to-play timetable. For now, the Tigers have four pitchers in their rotation: Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Michael Pineda and Beau Brieske.

“My goal is to get the pain out of there,” Alexander said, “and get back to throwing.”

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Alexander, though four starts, has an 8.76 ERA with five walks and nine strikeouts in 12⅓ innings. He owns a career-worst 8.5% walk rate in 2022, compared to 3.0% in 2019, 5.9% in 2020 and 6.2% in 2021.

His strike percentage is also the worst in his four-year MLB career, down from 67.1% in 2021 to 62.8% in 2022.

Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter — because of the uncharacteristic walks — assumed something was wrong with Alexander’s health. They met with the left-hander after Friday’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“On again, off again soreness, mostly in the tricep area and kind of leaked into the elbow area,” Hinch said Wednesday. “His command was so off for Tyler Alexander. … We need to get him healthy so his command is better.”

Alexander tried to hide the alteration of his mechanics, a product of his elbow injury, from the coaching staff.

He wanted to keep pitching.

“He could tell that I was working through some stuff,” Alexander said of his meeting with Hinch. “We bounced ideas back and forth on what I thought was best. … They decided that it would be best if I just took time off to get back to where I need to be.”

Casey Mize, Matt Manning up

Right-handers Casey Mize (right elbow sprain) and Matt Manning (right shoulder inflammation) have thrown multiple bullpens in Lakeland, with both players tossing more than 30 pitches.

Manning could begin a rehab assignment this weekend. Around the same time, Mize will throw live batting practice. The Tigers currently expect Manning to return to the Tigers’ starting rotation before Mize, but only by a week or so. The timeline for Manning’s arrival is unclear.

“They’re both doing pretty well,” Hinch said.

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Mize has a 5.40 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts in 10 innings across two starts; Manning boasts a 2.25 ERA with zero walks and four strikeouts in eight innings across two starts.

The Tigers placed Mize on the 10-day injured list April 15, then put Manning on the 10-day injured list April 20.

Dustin Garneau to Toledo

Catcher Dustin Garneau, removed from the 26- and 40-man rosters Monday, cleared waivers and has been sent to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers have two catchers on the active roster: Tucker Barnhart and Eric Haase.

“Dustin can help you win,” Hinch said. “He’s a good catcher. I don’t think it was a performance issue. We needed the extra pitcher. You’re going to see a number of pitcher transactions over the next week to 10 days. Unfortunately, that costs guys jobs sometimes when it’s not their fault.”

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With Garneau headed to the Mud Hens, the Tigers have a reliable catcher available in case of an injury (or poor performance from Haase). Had Garneau been picked up by a different team, Triple-A catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Chris Rabago would’ve been next in line to reach the big leagues.

Garneau hit .300 (3-for-10) with one walk and four strikeouts in eight games. He has eight years of MLB experience for six teams. The Tigers are paying him $1.175 million for the 2022 season.

Haase, also a left fielder, is hitting .128 with one home run, five walks and six strikeouts in 16 games.

‘I feel good’

Outfielder Robbie Grossman suffered a right hand contusion in Sunday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was plunked in the hand by Walker Buehler’s 92.8 mph cutter in the second inning.

Grossman returned to the starting lineup Wednesday.

“With how high the strike zone is and everything, it’s just part of it,” Grossman said. “Anytime you have to go get an X-ray, you’re always going to worry. It is what it is now. I feel good.”

If Tuesday’s game had not been postponed due to rain, Grossman would have been in the lineup as the leadoff hitter. The 32-year-old is hitting .288 with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts. He has a .411 on-base percentage.

“Pretty bruised, but a bruise isn’t going to keep Robbie out of the lineup,” Hinch said. “On the off day, he texted and said, ‘I’ll be good to go.’ Had we played yesterday, he was going to play, so certainly one more day of rest helps.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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