Henning: Fans should trust Tigers on Verlander's injury

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — Each day Justin Verlander is not pitching for the Tigers means another day of skepticism from fans who suspect something has been missed or covered up.

There apparently are a lot of Tigers followers who went to medical school.

Or, it is possible that this strained triceps muscle that knocked Verlander from the rotation just before spring camp adjourned is simply taking its time healing.

"We've consulted quite a few physicians," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said Monday afternoon as the Tigers got ready for what turned into an almost devilish, 2-1, victory over the Yankees at Comerica Park.

Rand's reputation has been bulletproof in the 13 years he has been Detroit's head team trainer. He does not unilaterally diagnose a situation that is complex or open to different interpretations. And the Tigers aren't into listing names of doctors whom they say have been consulted on Verlander's situation.

"We don't advertise," Rand said.

You can sense here a case of mutual irritation on the part of the Tigers and their Comerica Park customers.

The patrons, some anyway, are skeptical. The Tigers respond, in so many words:

Are you crazy? We've got a $200 million pitcher, a franchise athlete, and you think we're playing games with his recovery?

Or, as Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers front-office chief, said Monday: "If anybody has a vested interest in Justin Verlander's health, it's the club."

Privacy rights

Dombrowski's frustration, no doubt shared by Rand, is that team medical cases no longer are subject to detailed discussion. Compared with earlier years, privacy laws are tough and inviolate.

This safeguarding of an individual's dignity isn't terribly helpful when fans who care about the Tigers on the level of family and job want full disclosure.

"You have to remember," Dombrowski said, "I'm not at liberty to discuss medical matters. All you can basically do is stay on top of the situation."

That means being thorough. Verlander is a past Cy Young Award winner and league MVP. He is an indispensable starting pitcher whose ability each season to handle a couple of hundred quality innings is central to any playoff plans for the Tigers.

Still, some of the faithful is convinced there is malfeasance here. Why no MRI, they have asked?

In fact, Rand said Verlander was given a MRI. It confirmed that this indeed is a strain, that the problem is not structural, and that an inflamed triceps simply is taking longer to heal than might have first been projected.

Doctors know best

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked Monday about Verlander's recovery. In his 18 years as a player for different clubs, in his front-office work with the Padres, did the number of attending physicians at all differ in terms of depth or numbers?

"It's all very similar," Ausmus said. "He (Verlander) has been given the best possible treatment the Detroit Tigers have to offer — I'll tell you that."

No one outside Comerica Park's offices has offered a credible strategy for how Verlander's situation should otherwise have been handled, past or present. You get snippets of suggestions: He should have been given complete rest. Why did they wait on a MRI (people love the MRI — it sounds so high-tech)?

It's because doctors know when these routine procedures are necessary, or superfluous. They also agree on a particular prescribed recovery program.

Sometimes, a person's body doesn't respond quickly. Sometimes, the process is more protracted.

That's a long way from a star pitcher's health being abused or mistreated. And it's probably time for the fan base to at least acknowledge that when it comes to these topics doctors might be the better judges.