Rony García doesn’t know why he felt pain in his shoulder Sunday against the Minnesota Twins in his first start since returning from the same shoulder injury that sent him to the injured list at the end of June.
He can only guess.
The Detroit Tigers, dealing with more injuries to their starting pitchers than any team in baseball, can’t figure it out, either. Manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t know why so many of his starters have been forced to the injured list this season.
“I think we’re all guessing,” Hinch said. “I don’t think any of us really know, certainly to the level in which we’ve had injuries. Anyone’s guess is probably the right guess. I think we have no idea, otherwise we would have solved it a long time ago. … If they were consistent injuries throughout pitcher by pitcher or player by player, I think it would be easier to signal what the issue is.”
García, who said he learned Saturday he would start Sunday, had been on the injured list since July 3, retroactive to June 30, with right shoulder soreness. On Monday, the Tigers put the 24-year-old on the IL again with the same diagnosis.
He threw 62 pitches in Sunday’s game — his first time facing live hitters since June 29 — before exiting with athletic trainer Doug Teter in the third inning.
“To say what was the reason or the cause of the injury is hard for me,” García said, with Tigers bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen interpreting. “There were several topics that might have been the reason. For instance, I might have spent too much time to waiting to come back. My arm has always been healthy, and I was ready to pitch. It was also hard for me to start facing hitters again.”
García never completed a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo, but he said his body was prepared for Sunday’s workload. He was supposed to pitch for the Mud Hens on July 17, the final game before the All-Star break, but the game was suspended in the top of the first inning due to rain.
The Tigers planned to let García pitch three or four innings Sunday to simulate a rehab start.
“I felt I was ready to go back,” García said. “Obviously, there was a difference in all the time I spent waiting and getting my body ready to be back in business and facing hitters again. That was different. But besides that, I was completely ready.”
In 2022, García has a 4.59 ERA with 13 walks and 48 strikeouts in 51 innings across 16 games (eight starts). He doesn’t have structural damage in his shoulder, so while he will be shut down for at least a couple weeks, he isn’t expected to need surgery and could return later this season.
But the Tigers are down another starter.
The health problem, even more so than the lack of offense, is the organization’s biggest unsolved mystery this season.
“I’m not trying to avoid the question, I just don’t have any answers,” Hinch said. “These are age-old questions. The more you protect pitchers, the more we hurt them. But if we run them out there and run them into the ground, then we abused them.
“It is a difficult process to get a pitcher from start to finish. It’s become more difficult with shortened springs, shortened years, inning totals and a lot of variables that are uncontrollable. Quite honestly, it feels like we’re all guessing on what the right solutions are, and the majority of the league is guessing wrong.”
Friends come to town
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is playing against one of his closest friends, San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado, for the second time since both players left the Baltimore Orioles at the 2018 trade deadline.
They ascended to the big leagues together in Baltimore’s organization. In the 2018 postseason, Schoop (Milwaukee Brewers) and Machado (Los Angeles Dodgers) clashed in the National League Championship Series.
“We play the game the right way, but we have fun and make a moment out of it,” Schoop said. “We’ve been together since the minor leagues. We were roommates. Everybody went their separate ways, but we’re still friends. We talk to each other and call each other all the time.”
Machado, a six-time All-Star, is batting .299 with 16 home runs in 87 games for the Padres this season.
“Manny is always Manny,” Schoop said. “You’re going to get what you’re going to get from him. He’s complete. Sometimes when you see him out there, you don’t think he’s trying, but he’s that good. He makes it look so easy. I’m jealous.”
Also on San Diego’s roster is Jurickson Profar, who grew up with Schoop in Curacao. They played together in the 2004 Little League World Series and the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Schoop and Profar are two of 16 players from Curacao to reach the majors.
Profar is batting .242 with nine homers in 90 games this season.
“We go way back. That’s my boy,” Schoop said. “Since we were kids we played against each other and played with each other. We enjoy every moment. He came to my house. We talked. It’s fun to see each other.”
Jacob Barnes returns
Barnes received a spot on the Tigers’ Opening Day roster due to several injuries to relief pitchers in spring training. The 32-year-old pitched for the club until June 14, when he was designated for assignment.
The Tigers released Barnes on June 18, and four days later, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a minor-league deal. He never appeared in MLB for the Mariners and elected free agency after being designated for assignment July 11.
With the Tigers, Barnes posted a 6.10 ERA with nine walks and 10 strikeouts in 20⅔ innings, appearing in 22 games out of the bullpen.
He is a seven-year MLB veteran with previous experience for the Milwaukee Brewers (2016-19), Kansas City Royals (2019), Los Angeles Angels (2020), New York Mets (2021) and Toronto Blue Jays (2021).