Tigers' options for Matt Moore's injured right knee: rehab or surgery

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — As Matt Moore was riding a stationary bike inside the clubhouse Sunday morning, Tigers general manager Al Avila, members of the team’s medical staff and manager Ron Gardenhire were still trying to determine the best course of action for his sprained right knee.

“There are decisions to be made on how they want to attack it,” Gardenhire said. “Whether they can go and rehab it for 10 days and see where it’s at. The other option would be some kind of surgery to repair it.

“I don’t know which one he’s going to do.”

Tigers pitcher Matt Moore suffered a sprained knee in Saturday's start against the Royals.

Moore injured the knee fielding a bunt by the Royals' Billy Hamilton in the third inning Saturday. He made one more pitch, getting an inning-ending ground out from Whit Merrifield, but didn’t return. In his two starts with the Tigers, he’s pitched 10 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits.

“It’s tough,” said Daniel Norris, who will replace Moore in the Tigers’ rotation. “That guy has been awesome. He’s been awesome his whole career. I loved watching him pitch with the Rays and his two starts here.

“It’s really sad to see this. Hopefully he can come back soon and be good to go.”

The circumstances notwithstanding, Norris wants to make the most of this opportunity.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I feel fine. I am just happy to pitch again.”

Norris went three-plus innings in relief of Moore on Saturday and gave up three runs, including home runs to Merrifield and Jorge Soler.

“Results are results, but I was happy to be back out there,” he said. “I didn’t feel great, but, just trying to make pitches.”

He threw 50 pitches, 37 of them were four-seam fastballs in a velocity range of 88 to 92 mph. He threw 10 sliders and three change-ups. He has only thrown two curveballs and seven sliders this season. He was asked if he’s dropping those pitches from his arsenal.

“Not consciously,” he said. “I’m just sort of throwing whatever (the catcher) puts down.”

Asked about his mindset as a starter versus coming in from the bullpen, he said, “My mindset is throw strikes and get people out. That shouldn’t change at all. Easier said than done, but that’s what I need to think of it as.”

After playing games in eight straight days to start the season, the Tigers will have three off-days over an 11-day span. They could conceivably use just four starters over that stretch. But Gardenhire said there are no plans to alter the rotation.

Norris’ first start will be Saturday at Minnesota.

“Early in the season, it’s not a bad thing to keep them all in line,” Gardenhire said. “If you have off-days, just back them up and give them an extra day. That can help them later on rather than skipping somebody.”

VerHagen returns

At about 9:30 Sunday morning, Drew VerHagen walked past reporters carrying his equipment bag — thus ending what little suspense there was over who the Tigers would call up to replace Moore.

“He’s been throwing down there and he feels good,” Gardenhire said. “It’s a little quicker than we wanted it, but he’s OK.”

VerHagen, who missed two weeks in spring training with an inflamed nerve in his shoulder, started the season on the injured list with a forearm strain. He made one 10-pitch rehab appearance at Lakeland and was supposed to do at least one more.

But, Moore’s injury accelerated his return.

“He’s ready to go,” Gardenhire said. “We talked to him and he’s champing at the bit to get back out there. We won’t run him out there for three straight innings or anything like that. But we’ll put him out for an inning and see how it goes.

“We’ll guard it, but he is ready to go.”

Gardenhire said VerHagen likely will slot back in to his regular role in the bullpen, as the sixth- and seventh-inning set-up man.

Around the horn

Through two full turns through the rotation now, the Tigers starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.02 in 58 innings. They have allowed three earned runs or less in every start this season.

...Nick Castellanos, who doubled and scored a run Sunday, has reached base safely in all 10 games this season.

...Christin Stewart, after he tripled, singled and knocked in two runs Sunday, was 5 for 10, with a grand slam home run, triple, double and seven RBIs in the three-game series against the Royals.    

JaCoby Jones, in his second rehab game in Lakeland, went 2 for 4 with a double, two walks and two RBIs. There is a good chance Jones will be activated off the injured list (shoulder sprain) this week. 


Twitter: @cmccosky