A day after the Detroit Tigers say they got an apologetic text from Justin Verlander, their medical staff on Friday refuted charges of a “misdiagnosis” made when Verlander pitched in Detroit in 2015.
The fallout came from a Bleacher Report profile on Verlander and his wife, Kate Upton, describing Verlander’s psychological and physical challenges during 2014 and 2015 as he fought, first, after-effects from early 2014 abdominal surgery, and, later, a torn LAT muscle in the back of his right (throwing) shoulder.
In the Bleacher Report account, Verlander said the team and its doctors failed to understand early in 2015 that he was more seriously hurt than an initial diagnosis of a triceps strain.
“I knew something was wrong,” Verlander said in the story. “They take me out and misdiagnose me … Didn’t get an MRI. Because it (his injury) was so mild.”
The story also said a New York physical therapist, Annie Gow, had been brought by Verlander into his evaluation and that she played a role in his ultimate diagnosis and recovery.
The Tigers agree Gow was part of consultations and that, after vetting her, she was brought at team expense to their Lakeland, Fla., spring-camp headquarters in early 2015 to assist with Verlander and with other Tigers players. But, they insisted Friday, Gow had nothing to do with the later LAT diagnosis.
The Tigers say Verlander sent apologetic texts Thursday to general manager Al Avila and to Kevin Rand, who is the team’s senior director of medical services, and who in 2014 and 2015 was the team’s head athletic trainer. Verlander expressed regret, the Tigers said, for using the word “misdiagnosed” and said there was no dispute with the team over past medical procedures.
A message was sent Friday to Verlander seeking comment on the story and on his texted apology to the Tigers. There was no immediate response.
Because of privacy laws known as HIPAA, the Tigers said Friday they declined an earlier response sought by Brandon Sneed, who wrote the Bleacher Report article.
The Tigers agreed Friday to talk in non-specific medical terms about Verlander, which they believed would honor HIPAA restrictions and not be an affront to the team for which Verlander now plays, the Houston Astros.
They instead offered a timeline matching media reports that then circulated:
► Verlander had a miserable 2014 season as he recovered from surgery in January to repair core abdominal muscles. He allowed 104 earned runs in 206 innings in 2014 for a career-worst 4.54 season ERA. MRIs, however, showed no structural damage in a throwing shoulder that Verlander said in the Bleacher Report article was often, if not always, in pain.
► He was diagnosed late in 2015 spring camp with the strained triceps. Two subsequent MRIs in April confirmed to multiple doctors the triceps strain, the Tigers said, and showed no additional damage. During a road trip to Chicago in May 2015, Verlander and the Tigers medical staff met with Anthony Romeo, an orthopedic doctor considered an expert in shoulder matters, who detected a tear of the latissimus dorsi – the LAT muscle, which attaches to the shoulder joint.
► Verlander was treated for the tear and returned in mid-June. For a pitcher considered to be on his way to the Hall of Fame, he had a standard Verlander season: 3.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 20 starts.
► Verlander followed in 2016 with a virtuoso year and was runner-up to Rick Porcello in American League Cy Young Award voting. Verlander a year ago was traded to the Astros and had a blazing September-October finish, helping Houston to a world championship.
The Tigers insist Verlander’s medical attention in Detroit was beyond reproach and obvious in his nine 200-inning seasons as a Tigers starter. They point to his 2016 and comeback and even to his 2017 fastball velocity, which was as high as 98 when Houston traded for him last August.
The Tigers have a battery of doctors and national medical experts who are either with the team during each home game or who are consulted daily on injuries. The group is headed by Stephen Lemos, an orthopedic surgery specialist for Detroit Medical Center’s Sports Medicine affiliate in Farmington Hills. National specialists also are involved in evaluations and treatment.
"Second and third opinions across the country are protocol," Rand said.
Gow’s involvement was cited in the Bleacher Report story as critical to Verlander’s recovery. For three months, the story said, she worked with him on “soft tissue and joint mobilization” that by spring camp helped him rediscover fastball velocity.
The Tigers say they were apprised of Gow’s involvement in late 2014 and that Rand headed for New York City to vet her and learn if cooperation with Detroit’s medical staff might be beneficial.
The Tigers then say they flew her to Lakeland for a spring-camp stay and that she assisted not only with Verlander but with other players.
A voice-mail message left Friday for Gow was not immediately returned.