Make it stop! Injuries leave Detroit Tigers in limbo just as AL Central seems within reach

Detroit Free Press

Enough already.

Just make it stop.

The Detroit Tigers were hit with a series of painful blows on Tuesday, as two outfielders and a pitcher went down with injuries — all of which added up to a downright awful day.

Eduardo Rodriguez, the Tigers’ best starting pitcher this season, was placed on the 15-day injured list with a ruptured A4 pulley in his left index finger.

Matt Vierling, who has played in 46 of the Tigers’ 53 games, mostly in right field, was placed on the 10-day IL because of back pain.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. As the Tigers played the Texas Rangers, Riley Greene was pulled from the game with “left lower leg discomfort,” according to the team. Greene has been the team’s best player — and its biggest reason for hope for the future.

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“After the first inning, (Greene) complained of his lower left leg,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday night after the Tigers lost to the Rangers. “He fought to stay in the game. We sent him back out, and then he was kind of moving around a little gimpy.”

Hinch didn’t like the way Greene looked going after a ball in center.

“So, I just took him out of the game,” Hinch said.

Greene was sent for tests.

The injuries to two of their primary outfielders — and the continued absence of Kerry Carpenter, who is rehabbing in Triple-A from a shoulder injury — left the Tigers in a precarious position.

For most of this game, Akil Baddoo was the only outfielder by trade in the dugout, and he wasn’t even in the game. At one point, the Tigers’ outfield consisted of Eric Haase, normally a catcher, in left, Zack Short, normally an infielder, in center and Tyler Nevin, another natural infielder, in right.

I mean, who didn’t see that outfield coming in spring training?

Kudos for the Tigers’ versatility giving them the ability to move guys around.

But.

Ugh.

“It’s tough,” Short said of the Greene injury. “You’ve seen what he’s done all year. He makes us tick. And it’s tough, especially when not many people knew about it in the first place.”

Lots of ramifications

The impact of these injuries is daunting.

The Rodriguez injury is a gut punch in the short term — with his absence, this rotation has more holes than certainty.

And in the long term, his injury is like a left hook to the jaw, because he’s the team’s strongest potential trade chip (but we’ll get to that in a bit).

So, yes, this stinks on all levels.

I’m not a doctor, and I’m not even gonna guess how long he’ll be out, but “rupture” is an ominous term for any athlete.

“We’re going to give him a week to 10 days of rest and then re-evaluate where he’s at,” Hinch said. “Any time you lose a primary player, or any player that’s active, it creates a cascade effect on the roster. We’ll address it as we go. We need to get him healthy and get him back. That’s all we can focus on at this point.”

Looking ahead, Rodriguez could opt out of his contract after this season.

Which made him a prime trade candidate.

He will miss at least two starts, just being on the injury list. But if this injury is as serious as it sounds — depending on the severity, this type of injury can take six weeks or more to heal — the trade deadline looms awfully close.

If he’s going opts out of his contract in November, obviously, it would be better if the Tigers could get something for him in July.

“It’s always hard to lose one of your better players,” Hinch said. “But, it’s one (start) of five days. It shouldn’t impact games two, three, four and five. We will feel that impact because it’s Eduardo and how well he was doing. But, we can’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.

Now, it’s up to Harris

This is the first real adversity that Scott Harris has faced as the Tigers’ president of baseball operations.

How will he respond?

Here’s my guess: He’s not gonna freak out or make a rash move. He’s going to take the calm, steady approach: trying to win in the short term, but knowing the long term is far more important.

What does that mean now?

Not rushing either Matt Manning or Tarik Skubal back into the rotation.

Both pitched in Comerica Park on Tuesday.

Just not in the game.

Skubal threw a live batting practice, and Manning threw a bullpen.

“He looks very much like the Tarik Skubal we expect,” Hinch said. “Manning is further behind than Skubal.”

Both will eventually go on rehab assignments.

HEALING TOUCH: What’s next for Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal? Rehab assignment coming soon

Reading the tea leaves, we won’t see them together in the rotation for at least a month.

“On a day like today, when we’re announcing Eddie (Rodriguez) on the IL, it sure is nice to see those guys trending in the right direction,” Hinch said.

Get ready for changes

In the midst of all this, Harris made an interesting move: Acquiring Jake Marisnick from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for cash.

Marisnick gives the Tigers an above-average defender at all three outfield positions.

The Tigers plan to activate him on Wednesday morning.

“Every team is going to go through this,” Hinch said. “It’s our turn, I guess. We will absorb it the best we can.”

All of this is happening at the craziest time. The Tigers are right in the thick of the American League Central race, and their goal should be the playoffs.

Because the AL Central stinks.

And the Tigers have played pretty solid ball.

But these injuries, depending on severity, could be a series blow.

On Tuesday night, however, in the midst of all this bad news, this battered, beat-up team kept playing.

Hinch kept moving players around. Kept pushing buttons.

There was Miguel Cabrera, going 3-for-3, driving in two runs and scoring a run.

It was like he was saying to this young team: “Forget about all these injuries. Just keep playing!”

And maybe that’s the only way they should approach this.

But there was so much uncertainty that even HInch wasn’t sure how it was all going to shake out.

“Jake will be here tomorrow and will be activated and we’ll have a corresponding move tomorrow,” Hinch said. “We are gonna wait to see all the dust settle.”

All of the uncertainty, at that moment, for this team and this roster, was left hanging in the air.

Contact Jeff Seidel at jseidel@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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