Detroit — Blaine Hardy reached out to his teammate, fellow lefty Matt Moore, right before he went into surgery Wednesday morning.
“They wanted him to go in expecting the worse but hoping for the best,” Hardy said. “Obviously, he didn’t win the lottery.”
Moore, the Tigers starting pitcher who worked 10 scoreless innings before sustaining an injury to his right knee, will miss the remainder of the 2019 season after undergoing meniscus surgery in Dallas.
“This is a blow for him and our ballclub,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But I am more worried about the guy than I am anything else. This guy wants to pitch and he was making a great comeback with us. He was throwing really well, had a great spring and we were really excited.
“And now he’s going to miss a season, which for him and his family is very frustrating. Our thoughts go out to him. We just want to help him get through this.”
Moore came out of the game after three innings on April 6. Initial tests showed some meniscus damage, and the initial opinion of the Tigers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Lemos, supported by Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Keith Meister, was for Moore to try to rehab it.
After a week, it was clear the rehab was going it the wrong direction.
“He had a couple of setbacks, the last being in Minneapolis,” Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said. “Just from some of the things he was feeling, it was apparent that it would be reductive to keep going with the rehab course.”
Still, Moore was optimistic that it would be a minor repair.
“There’s no reason to think it will be anything more than four to six weeks,” Moore said Sunday. “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.”
Moore flew to Dallas and had the surgery Wednesday. Instead of minor repair, Meister had to perform a full meniscal repair.
“You try to keep as much integrity of the meniscus as you can,” Teter said. “You don’t want to just blindly cut away and wind up with other issues. So, for his quality of life and for his career, the best option was to go ahead and repair it.
“He got in there and fixed what he saw. The rehab coming back for what (Meister) had to do to repair it is not the timeline we were hoping for.”
The Tigers have now lost two-fifths of their starting rotation to season-ending injury. Michael Fulmer, who had meniscal surgery last September, had Tommy John surgery last month.
“He’s a guy we thought would be important to our rotation, so this definitely stinks,” catcher John Hicks said of Moore. “Injuries happen. It’s kind of the way the game goes. Looking back the last few years, we’ve seen plenty of injuries around here that cost us very important players.
“All you can do is keep moving forward. Somebody is going to have to step up. That’s pretty much what it comes down to.”
Daniel Norris is first up to replace Moore in the rotation. He will start Saturday against the White Sox.
“At least it wasn’t an arm injury,” Hardy said, seeking a silver lining on a rough day. “That will make it a little easier for him to get a job next year. I’m sure his arm will be top-notch as always and he’ll be ready. For now, he’ll get to watch his young son grow up a little bit.”
Moore and his wife had their first child in February. Fulmer and his wife are getting close to birth of their first child, as well.
“At least they’ll be able to spend time with their family and be ready for next year,” Hardy said. “It’s just about looking for the best things in life and appreciating them. Everyone wants to be able to play every day, but if something happens, you have to be happy with the life you got and try to bounce back as quick as you can.”
Teter said barring any complications or setbacks, Moore should be ready to pitch by next spring.
“Every team at some point this year is going to have a main factor go down,” Hicks said. “But for us, I hope this is the last one.”
On another injury front, shortstop Jordy Mercer, out with a right quad strain, worked out on an elliptical machine Wednesday and felt no discomfort.
“Just easing my way into it,” he said. “There’s still no timetable.”
Mercer was injured and placed on the injured list on April 14. He would be eligible to return next Wednesday. He believes he’s on pace to return close to that date.
“Somewhere around the 10-day mark, give or take a few days,” he said. “I didn’t think it would feel this good this soon, to be honest.”
In the eighth inning, fans at Comerica Park were instructed to leave their seats and take cover under the stands. Lightning was flashing out in the distance and a small band of severe weather was blowing through.
Oddly, though, the game continued.
"I think they were worried about the lightning, maybe, but not about us?" Gardenhire said with a smile. "That was a little different. You've got to protect the fans, that's important, too.
"Normally, when you get lightning flashing, they kick you off the field. I guess the weather reports said it was minimal and it wouldn't last."
On deck: Chicago White Sox
Series: Four-game series at Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: Thursday — 1:10 p.m.; Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday — 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: Friday-Sunday — FSD, 97.1 FM
Probables: Thursday — RHP Ivan Nova (0-2, 5.28) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (1-2, 3.50); Friday — LHP Carlos Rodon (2-2, 3.27) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-2, 4.29); Saturday — RHP Ervin Santana (0-1, 10.38) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (0-0, 4.32); Sunday — RHP Reynaldo Lopez (1-2, 8.84) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.96).
Nova, White Sox: He’s allowed just two runs over 13 innings in his two road starts this season. His one home start was a disaster, pounded for seven runs in 2.1 innings by Seattle. He hasn’t had a lot of luck at Comerica over his career — 0-3, 7.33. His four-seam and sinker are sitting at 92 mph and he’s using the slider again after a six-year hiatus.
Ross, Tigers: Comerica Park made a strong first impression on Ross; he spun a gem against the Royals (seven innings, one run, eight strikeouts) on April 7, his first appearance on the Comerica mound. He’s had just one bad inning in his three starts, that being a four-run third in Minnesota in his last start.