Minneapolis — The Tigers activated left-hander reliever Blaine Hardy Saturday, but he’s still not completely out of the woods
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “I still need to build my strength up. But it’s to the point where I feel I can pitch and help the team.”
Hardy had been out since April 23, dealing with tendinitis in his left flexor tendon, which runs under his elbow. He threw three scoreless innings in two rehab outings at High-A Lakeland. But still, there’s some discomfort.
“It’s not out,” he said of the tendinitis. “I have a feeling it’s something I’m going to have to learn to pitch through. It’s just at a point now where it’s not affecting my pitching.”
It is also something the Tigers’ medical team has determined won’t be further damaged by pitching.
“There are certain pitches where I feel it,” he said. “On the majority of my off-speed pitches, I’m feeling it. But I don’t think I’m going to just throw all fastballs.”
Hardy makes his living with a clever assortment of cutters, change-ups and curveballs. He got all three batters out he faced in Game 1 Saturday and of his 16 pitches, only three were fastballs.
“It’s one of those things; age sometimes catches up to you,” said Hardy, who is 32. “I’m not saying I’m old. I refuse to fall into that trap. But the body isn’t always going to feel 100 percent over the grind of a 162-game season.
“You have to be able to get through those times when you don’t feel 100 percent, whether it’s from sickness, minor injury or tendinitis. The majority of the guys up here have done it before and know how to deal with it.”
Still, the worry is that this persistent inflammation could lead to eventual surgery.
“That’s not something I want to worry about at this point,” Hardy said. “It’s not something you want to think about every time you feel something. If that’s the route this ends up going, then that’s where it goes. But I don’t think, from what everybody’s telling me, that is the route this is going.
“We are just going to strengthen everything around it and hope that takes the strain off it and it gets better.”
No IL for Niko
As expected, Tigers utility man Niko Goodrum was plenty sore after colliding with the Twins' Marwin Gonzalez at first base in the sixth inning Friday. He was held out of the first game of the doubleheader Saturday but was expected to play in the nightcap.
“It’s good,” he said. “I’ve got some soreness, a little swelling. We’re just trying to push the swelling out, so I’ve been doing treatment.”
Goodrum inadvertently kneed Gonzalez in the face as he leaped for a high throw from pitcher Tyson Ross. He bruised his knee cap. Gonzalez underwent concussion protocol and had bruising on his forehead.
“I saw the ball and I was just trying to stop the ball, keep the guys getting extra bases,” Goodrum said. “That was my first thought, trying to get the ball. I saw I couldn’t get it and I was just trying to get out of his way as I saw him running.
“I thought maybe I could lift my leg to try to let him pass through or try to avoid some contact, and it didn’t work out.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Drew VerHagen, whom the Tigers designated for assignment on Sunday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. The same scenario played out for VerHagen last season. He struggled early, was DFA’d, then got himself back on track at Toledo.
... Tigers set-up man Joe Jimenez has had an odd stretch. In his last seven outings, covering seven innings, he's allowed four hits with 15 strikeouts. But three of the four hits have been home runs, including the game-tying bomb that C.J. Cron hit in the first game Saturday. Those homers have cost him two blown saves and a walk-off loss.
… After the game Friday, reliever Eduardo Perez was optioned back to Toledo.