Justin Verlander pitches against the Pirates in the first inning Monday night before being removed from the game. (Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)
Pittsburgh – The Tigers will soon find out if they’ll have to carry on without Justin Verlander.
And if so, for how long.
It’s a prospect they have never faced – because Verlander has never had to undergo an MRI caused by shoulder soreness.
But it’s what Verlander was scheduled to have on Tuesday in Detroit – an MRI to determine why, in his own words, “it wasn’t there at all” on Monday night when he searched in vain for the comfort with which he usually pitches.
Sensing something was wrong from the start, and certainly aware that Verlander wasn’t right after the Pirates scored five runs in the first inning of what would become an 11-6 victory for them, manager Brad Ausmus removed Verlander after the first inning – despite a desperate need for more innings than that from his starting pitcher after Sunday’s 19-inning game in Toronto.
“But to me,” said Ausmus, “his delivery looked different. I was immediately worried from the start of the game.”
Not only did Verlander have to come out of Monday night’s game, but with the loss, the Tigers dropped into second place behind Kansas City for the first time since June 18.
Challenging times, in other words.
“Certainly,” said Ausmus. “We’ve lost Anibal Sanchez, we’ve lost Joakim Soria – and one of the best pitchers in Tigers history is being evaluated medically.
“So I wouldn’t say it’s been fun the last few days.
“If I had sent Justin back out there and he’d gotten seriously hurt, I don’t know if I could live with myself really.
“I’d be kicking myself from now to the end of the season. He’s way too good of a talent and way too important for this team to allow myself to risk that.”
Thinking he wasn’t about to jeopardize his health if he returned to the mound for a second inning, Verlander was angry at being removed, stormed out of the dugout, but later cooled down and acknowledged it was the right move.
He also acknowledged that on the mound in the first inning he had the “worst” stuff of his career.
So now, with Sanchez about to go on the disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle – facing a 3-4 week absence – and with Verlander’s future uncertain, the Tigers’ pitching plans look to be exactly what they are: revised.
Robbie Ray was Tuesday night’s scheduled starter. Right-hander Buck Farmer, with only two starts higher than the Single A West Michigan level under his belt, will start against the Pirates on Wednesday night at Comerica Park – followed by Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and David Price.
Because of Verlander’s situation, though – and what he described as “the spider web of things that could happen following the results,” the Tigers don’t know what their rotation plans will be beyond Saturday.
Of Farmer, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said, “Ideally you have more development time, but our guys like him.
“We moved him to Double A because we were concerned that if we needed extra pitching down the road, it would give him exposure (at a higher level).
“I think he has a chance to come here and pitch well.”
But a rotation without Sanchez and Verlander forces the Tigers to improvise.
“We have to get our feet back on the ground right now,” said Dombrowski. “We’re bringing guys up, moving them around.
“We’ll see what happens.”