Lakeland, Fla. — They were the most reliable pitchers in the Tigers bullpen last season, and it looks like neither will be with the team when they break camp.
Right-hander Alex Wilson (lat strain) and left-hander Blaine Hardy (shoulder) are both likely to remain in Lakeland for extended spring training.
“There could be some temporary spots open (in the bullpen),” manager Brad Ausmus said Friday morning.
An MRI on Hardy’s shoulder showed a slight internal impingement. He will not throw until Monday and even then, it will be just a light toss. Ausmus didn’t rule him out for the opener, but he didn’t seem optimistic.
Neither was Hardy.
“I’m worried that, yes, I will have to be down here when the season starts,” he said. “But at the same time, I am happy I said something (about the pain). If I’d have gone into the season and it was still as it is now, then I’m hurting the team even more than I would by not breaking camp with them.
“And I’d be hurting myself, as well. It’s a lose-lose if it doesn’t get better.”
Hardy, who has made six appearances this spring, was hoping the soreness was just tendinitis.
“I’ve been feeling it for a little bit,” he said. “Most people could probably tell by the way I was throwing. I thought I was just building up strength and it was normal soreness. But I did it for three weeks and finally I hit a point where, you know what, it’s not getting better.”
Wilson, who has yet to pitch in a spring game, has seemingly worked through his injury. He threw a bullpen on Thursday with no discomfort during or after. He is scheduled to pitch to hitters, live batting practice, on Sunday.
But Ausmus said there won’t be enough time to build his arm strength before the end of camp.
“He’s not going to be ready,” Ausmus said. “He’s got to throw back-to-back (in games) and he needs to go multiple innings. Plus, we don’t want to rush him at this point.”
Ausmus doesn’t think either pitcher will be out long, which plays into which relievers he keeps on the 25-man roster.
There are five who are veritable locks: closer Francisco Rodriguez, set-up men Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson, left-hander Kyle Ryan and right-hander Drew VerHagen.
In the hunt for the final two spots are right-handers Bruce Rondon, Buck Farmer, Lendy Castillo, Bobby Parnell and Logan Kensing.
The Tigers will have to make a decision on Parnell next week. To keep him in camp, they will need to pay him a $100,000 retention fee. If he makes the team, that fee is absorbed into his regular salary.
There is also a chance the Tigers could use Shane Greene out of the bullpen and keep left-hander Matt Boyd as the No. 5 starter.
“It’s always a difficult decision when you are dealing with people’s careers,” Ausmus said. “But a lot of it will be dictated by the health of some of these pitchers.”
Designated hitter Victor Martinez (left hamstring strain) has done light running the past two days without any major discomfort. He has been taking batting practice, too, but it’s still unclear when he will get back to game action.
Ausmus repeated that it’s possible Martinez could start the season on the DL, but it’s not probable. He also said he didn’t think Martinez, if healed, would need a rehab assignment.
“Look at Miggy (Cabrera) last year,” he said. “He didn’t do a rehab assignment (after missing six weeks with a calf injury) and he came back on fire. If Vic can get a week of at-bats, he’ll be fine.”