Oakland, Calif. – Five weeks. Because of a finger blister.
The Tigers weren’t prepared for a layoff so long, and neither was Shane Greene when he left an April 24 game against the Indians at Comerica Park with a bloody reminder that throwing a baseball can put painful, and disabling, stress on a pitcher’s finger.
The Tigers initially thought Greene might miss a start. And then the process got more complicated. The finger took longer to heal. A couple of weeks later, at a point when tissue had healed and skin reappeared, Greene’s finger ruptured, beginning anew the entire repair process.
“Kind of different circumstances,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday as the Tigers tuned up for a game against the A’s at Oakland Coliseum.
Greene is perhaps days from rejoining the Tigers. The tentative plan is for him to pitch for Triple A Toledo in a rehab start Tuesday. The goal is have Greene throw about 75 pitches as he rebuilds strength that might make him a rotation option, depending upon how health and performances shake out in Detroit.
Jordan Zimmermann was to throw a pre-game bullpen session Sunday that would determine if he can make a start this week, or be moved to the disabled list. That’s one factor in Greene’s preparation and potential role.
It would help, also, if Mike Pelfrey, who was to start Sunday’s game for the Tigers, has a sturdy start that ensures he remains solidly in the rotation.
But the Tigers are also pondering Greene as a bullpen option, which is the percentage bet on where he lands if all goes well Tuesday.
“What’s gonna best help us win baseball games?” Ausmus asked, concisely framing the Tigers’ internal question.
“We told him this spring (training) that he should be prepared to start or relieve. He’s shown ability to do both. We’re not really sure what his best role is.
“There are times I think he could be a set-up guy, in the seventh inning or later, or a starter. I think he could do both.”
Regardless of his slot on Ausmus’ staff, Greene would appreciate at least a reasonable stretch of good health.
A year ago, he was about to leave Detroit, after a combustible spring that saw his performance deteriorate. It was later learned he was dealing with a blood clot in his shoulder, which led to numbness and discoloration in his right (throwing) hand and fingers.
He had surgery in August, had a reassuring offseason regimen, and was throwing the ball well, with even more velocity, during spring training and in the early days of the 2016 regular season.
Then, the blister.
Five weeks ago.
It has been a longer-term injury than the Tigers, or Greene, would ever have imagined that Sunday at Comerica Park.