Minneapolis — Matt Moore was pretty sure he knew where this whole meniscus thing was headed, but the incontrovertible evidence came on Friday when he walked over to the frozen, snow-covered field at Target Center and tried to long-toss from 120 feet.
“It was my fifth or sixth throw,” he said. “When I planted the knee, it felt like your knuckles just sliding across one another. The pain wasn’t so great, but that instability told me it might not be in our control to let this heal up during the season.”
Moore, who injured his right meniscus in the third inning of his start on April 6, will fly Wednesday to Dallas and have arthroscopic surgery performed by Dr. Keith Meister. The recovery time will be determined by the severity of the tear.
“I know I have a torn meniscus, but the severity of it is still unknown until he gets in there,” Moore said. “That’s when they make those decisions. He can only fix what he sees. Right now they can’t tell enough through the MRI to tell the exact extent of the repair.”
In general, if it’s a Grade 1 tear, the recovery time is three to four weeks. It would be four to six weeks for a Grade 2. Then there are the extreme cases, like Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer, who had a complete reconstruction of his meniscus.
“There’s no reason to think it will be anything more than four to six weeks,” Moore said. “I’ve had a relatively easy time walking and things like that, so I hope that’s a sign that it’s a minor tear.”
He was initially hoping he could forestall surgery through physical therapy.
“It had been six or seven days since I pitched and felt it, and we already had our second setback,” Moore said. “That’s not a great number, two setbacks in seven days. Maybe if it was a month and we had two setbacks it would be easier to deal with.
“At this point, though, the decision was easy to make.”
The setbacks were not insignificant, either. The first one came while he was stretching. He said the knee locked up on him and it took him nearly five hours to loosen it to the point where he could walk on it. The second one was on Friday.
“My whole life I’ve heard about meniscus tears,” Moore said. “My parents have had theirs cleaned up through a scope. My dad went to work the next day. That’s why my fingers are crossed, hoping that will be the case for me.”
Moore's father didn’t pitch in the big leagues, so he knows he won’t be going back to work on Thursday. But you get his point. He’s hoping for a fast turnaround.
The Tigers won’t need a fifth starter until Friday or Saturday. At present, Daniel Norris is expected to make that start.
With shortstop Jordy Mercer going on the injured list with a right quad strain, the Tigers recalled Ronny Rodriguez from Triple-A Toledo.
“You start looking at our options, it was a pretty easy decision,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Ronny is a guy who’s been here, we know what he can do and he can play all around the field, infield and outfield. And he can swing it.”
The considerations for who to bring up went beyond just replacing a shortstop. The Tigers went into the game with second baseman Josh Harrison nursing a shoulder bruise and Niko Goodrum still ailing from the flu.
“We’ve got nobody on the bench,” Gardenhire said. “We can put Ronny in there and if something happens, I can move him around. We needed to have a body here who could play everywhere. He’s the guy.”
The other options on the 40-man roster — Sergio Alcantara, Willi Castro and Brandon Dixon — don’t offer the same positional flexibility that Rodriguez does. Same for non-roster shortstop Pete Kozma.
The only mystery was whether Rodriguez would get to the ballpark before first pitch. He caught a flight from Norfolk, Va., Sunday morning which was expected to land in Minneapolis-St. Paul at 10:45 a.m.
He got there in plenty of time, and doubled in his first at-bat.
"I was ready mentally and prepared for the game," Rodriguez said. "It's a great feeling to be back in the clubhouse with these guys and trying to help them win."
“He may have to walk up and hit in his clothes his first time up,” Gardenhire joked before the game.
Harrison went into the game Saturday battling the flu bug that has ripped through the Tigers’ clubhouse. Then he landed hard on his left shoulder diving for a ball during the game. He was held out of the lineup Sunday, but Gardenhire said he would be available if needed.
“Part of the game,” Harrison said. “You play hard, we’re all going to have little bangs and bruises. It’s sore, but ain’t nobody in here 100 percent. It’s just what we do, putting our bodies on the line.”
Harrison is off to a slow start offensively, hitting .135. Mostly, pitchers have been getting him out with fastballs. Sixty-four percent of the pitches he’s seen have been fastballs, and he’s 4 for 32 with a 31 percent whiff rate against it.
“When things aren’t going right for you, it doesn’t matter what they throw you,” Harrison said. “I am missing pitches I shouldn’t miss. Everything is going to be magnified when you miss pitches you shouldn’t miss.
“It’s not a matter of how they’re getting me out, it’s more so missing pitches I shouldn’t. It won’t last always.”
Around the horn
Gardenhire said Nick Castellanos (toe) would not be available Sunday, and he’d prefer not to use Goodrum. But Goodrum said he was available to play if needed.