Justin Verlander throws in the first inning Monday night against the Pirates. He was removed after the first inning. (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)
Pittsburgh – The news for the Tigers could not have been better.
Tuesday’s MRI found no major structural damage in Justin Verlander’s right shoulder.
It was soreness in that shoulder that prompted manager Brad Ausmus to remove Verlander after one inning of Monday night’s 11-6 loss to the Pirates -- and for the Tigers to schedule an MRI.
“It showed normal wear and tear,” said trainer Kevin Rand. “Definitely inflammation, but that’s a normal part of the pitching process.”
In that case, what’s the situation going forward?
“At this point we don’t expect him to go on the disabled list,” said Ausmus. “And we’re still evaluating what the treatment options are.
“The initial news was very good. There’s a possibility he may only have to miss a start and be right back with us.”
Verlander’s next start would be Sunday at home, and while it’s likely he will miss it, he might campaign not to.
“I don’t want to write it off at this point,” said Ausmus.
The Tigers also announced more roster moves on Tuesday: They optioned Justin Miller back to Toledo to make room for starter Robbie Ray and they officially put Anibal Sanchez on the disabled list in order to put Blaine Hardy back on the active list.
The worst-case scenario on Tuesday, of course, would have been if Verlander needed surgery. So it was with great relief that Ausmus was able to say, “It’s not a surgical injury.”
Verlander needed the MRI, all the same 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, Ausmus removed Verlander after the first inning – despite a desperate need for more innings from his starting pitcher after Sunday’s 19-inning game in Toronto.
“To me,” Ausmus said after the game, “his delivery looked different. I was immediately worried from the start of the game.”
Challenging times, in other words.
“Certainly,” said Ausmus. “We’ve lost 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, though, and he’d gotten seriously hurt, I don’t know if I could live with myself really.”
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.
Even with the good news, the Tigers have had to revise their pitching plans.
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 in that order for the three games after that.
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 up here and pitch well.”