Minneapolis — The Tigers knew they would eventually need a starting pitcher for Saturday to replace Artie Lewicki (elbow). Now they’re going to need another one — for Sunday, to replace Blaine Hardy, who was put on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis before Friday's loss the Twins.
“It’s not the way you draw it up,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But sometimes you have to run an end around. You can’t run right at the defense, so you’ve got to circle them. You got to trick them. That’s just what we have to do right now.”
Hardy had been pitching through soreness in his left elbow for a while, and he wanted to continue to do so. But when the elbow pain flared again during his side session Friday, Gardenhire pulled the plug.
“We can’t take a chance on starting him,” Gardenhire said. “He’s going to go on the DL and let this thing calm down. It’s not a big deal, but it’s there and he still feels it. So we’re not putting him out there like that.”
An MRI showed no structural damage. So, with his DL stint retroactive to Wednesday, it’s possible Hardy will only miss one start.
"It had been nagging me for a while," Hardy said. "But I could throw through it. The last start, it was worse. It's not pain, but it's tightness and the tightness started to affect my control on my pitches. So I had to say something.
"We had it tested and the elbow is in good shape. It's just tendinitis. Just have to give it a rest and, ideally, I will only miss one start."
Left-hander Ryan Carpenter, a starting pitcher, was recalled from Toledo and immediately activated. He will start on Saturday. Had he been needed Friday, though, he would have been used.
“We have to have protection,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t want to play with a 24-man roster tonight. We are activating Carpenter so we have 25 men. We hope we don’t have to use the 25th man and we’ll go from there.”
The situation is perilous, though. The Tigers bullpen has had to eat up 26.2 innings over the last six days. Gardenhire said it was imperative that starter Matthew Boyd get deep into the game Friday.
“He’s not coming out,” Gardenhire said, only half-joking. “I will refuse to take him out. He can throw with his other arm if he gets tired.”
As for the Sunday starter, Gardenhire said another arm would likely be called up from the minor leagues, though he wouldn’t discuss his options.
The road back
It’s been a frustrating season for Carpenter. He made his big-league debut with the Tigers after eight seasons in the minor leagues, making three spot starts for the Tigers. His best start was on May 31 when he limited the Angels to a run and five hits over four innings.
It was that day that he strained his oblique and had to miss the next two months.
“Very frustrating,” he said. “Back in Toledo with (pitching coach) Jeff Pico, I had started to figure some stuff out, started throwing the ball well and then — just terrible timing. It came out of nowhere.”
Carpenter was sent to Florida to do his rehab work. He didn’t start throwing again until early July.
“Patience,” he said, when asked what the experience taught him. “That was the first injury of my entire career, the first time I had to rehab like that. You learn you can’t rush it. You have to be patient with it, and also understand I had stuff I had to work on at Triple-A.
“So I just stuck to the grind.”
From the rehab, he has built up his core strength and his arm strength is back to where it was prior to the injury. He threw over 90 pitches in his last start at Toledo.
“I’m just going to take as much advantage of this as I can,” Carpenter said. “I know I’ve put the work in. I’ve been working on things all year long. I feel like I am ready. I just have to go out and prove it.”
Center fielder JaCoby Jones (right hamstring strain) ran for the first time since going on the disabled list. He said he felt so good he told Gardenhire he was ready to go.
The hamstring tightness, as well as the back spasms he was experiencing, have both subsided. If Jones stays on course, he could be activated on Thursday.
Tigers at Twins
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Target Field, Minneapolis
RHP Kohl Stewart (0-1, 6.23), Twins: He will get a chance at swift revenge against the Tigers. They spoiled his big-league debut last weekend by scoring three times in the fifth inning.
LHP Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 6.39), Tigers: He missed two months with an oblique strain, but three of his last four starts at Toledo were productive (five runs in 17 innings). He was available if needed on Friday.