Detroit — Tigers manager AJ Hinch knew something wasn’t right during Tyler Alexander’s last outing in Los Angeles.
The left-handed starter didn’t have the same command. He didn’t have the same mechanics. After failing to get through four innings in his third consecutive start, Hinch met with him the next day and Alexander revealed his left elbow had been bothering him for about a month.
“I mean, I felt good enough to pitch so I tried to work through it,” Alexander said Wednesday. “But I changed my mechanics a little bit to avoid using my elbow as much, which probably affected some of my pitches.
“I’ve been kind of working through it. Eventually I just wasn’t able to pronate was my biggest issue. So, throwing a changeup and anything arm side was starting to get pretty painful.”
The Tigers placed Alexander on the injured list Monday with a left elbow sprain, making him the third starter on the Opening Day roster to land on the IL, along with Casey Mize and Matt Manning. Alexander had an MRI exam on Tuesday, which confirmed he had an elbow sprain and some inflammation but no structural damage.
Pitching with a sore elbow would help explain why his walk rate was an uncharacteristic 8.5%, 3% higher than his career average, why hitters were slashing .327/.379/.558 with a .931 OPS against him, and why his cutter and sinker didn’t have the same bite.
“That’s been building a little bit, on again off again soreness mostly in the triceps area that kind of leads into the elbow area,” Hinch said. “Once we got him evaluated, we just didn’t want to put him back on the field. … We need to get him healthy so his command is better.”
Alexander said Hinch could tell he was working through something when they sat and watched some video together after last week’s outing. That’s when athletic trainer Doug Teter and Hinch decided it was best for Alexander to rest.
The plan is for Alexander to take a couple of days off from throwing, build back up and head to Lakeland, Florida, where he’ll start his throwing program. Alexander said he isn’t sure if he’ll just miss one start, but the goal is to “get the pain” out of his elbow and get back to where he needs to be.
Alexander said the injury probably stemmed from the shortened spring training, where he had three outings before the regular season began.
“We do our best to prepare but you just can’t prepare for game speed in the big leagues,” he said. “You can’t do that. You throw as many bullpens and live (batting practices) before we show up, but three weeks of spring training is pretty short. … It is what it is. It probably has an effect, sure, but a lot of guys are also healthy. It’s just kind of person to person.”
Alexander added his isn’t sure if this is going to be an issue he’s going to have to deal with the rest of the season or if the time off will help him get past the ailment.
“If I can get my mechanics back to where they need to be, then if I feel a little bit my elbow and I feel like as long as I can pitch how I need to then that’s fine,” he said. “With the week off and everything, I’m hoping that I can get the pain out of there and I’ll be fine.”
Around the horn
Outfielder Robbie Grossman was back in the starting lineup after he exited Sunday’s game with a right hand contusion. He was hit by a 93-mph fastball from Dodgers starter Walker Buehler in the second inning.
“He was fine. Pretty bruised, but a bruise isn’t going to keep Robbie out of the lineup,” Hinch said. “Even on the off day (Monday) he texted and said, ‘I’ll be good to go.’ Had we played yesterday, he was going to play. Certainly, one more day of rest helps.”
… Catcher Dustin Garneau, an eight-year veteran, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo two days after he was designated for assignment.
Hinch said the plan going into the season was to carry three catchers on the roster — Tucker Barnhart, Eric Haase, who can also play outfield, and Garneau — but that changed once the team acquired outfielder Austin Meadows.
“Dustin can help you win. He’s a good catcher,” Hinch said. “I don’t think it was a performance issue or something that. We just couldn’t absorb that. We need the extra pitcher. You’re going to see a number of pitcher transactions over the next week to 10 days. Unfortunately, that costs guys job sometimes when it’s not their fault.”
… Manning and Mize both threw multiple bullpens, over 30 pitches each time, earlier this week. Hinch said both are “doing pretty well” and noted Manning is likely to be the first of the two to go out on a rehab assignment.
… Hinch said prospect Ryan Kreidler will have surgery on his broken right hand and the Tigers hope to get him back to playing later this summer.
Tigers at Astros
► Series: Four games at Minute Maid Park, Houston
► First pitch: Thursday-Friday — 8:10 p.m.; Saturday — 4:05 p.m.; Sunday — 2:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: All games on BSD/97.1
► Probables: Thursday — LHP Tarik Skubal (1-2, 3.05) vs. RHP José Urquidy (2-1, 5.95); Friday — RHP Beau Brieske (0-1, 3.60) vs. RHP Luis Garcia (1-1, 4.15); Saturday — LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (-02, 5.33) vs. LHP Framber Valdez (1-2, 3.42); Sunday — TBD vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 4.15)
► Skubal, Tigers: Skubal has allowed seven earned runs and three walks in 20⅔ innings. Three of those earned runs and two of those walks came in last week’s outing at Minnesota, where the defense let him down in an ugly four-run fifth inning. He’ll look to bounce back after getting an extra day of rest following Monday’s postponement.
► Urquidy, Astros: He’s been roughed up over his last three starts, surrendering 21 hits and 12 earned runs over 14⅔ innings. He’s also given up at least one home run in each game this season and lasted more than five innings just once.