Tigers move Tyler Alexander to bullpen, mull piggy-back starts for Spencer Turnbull, Daniel Norris

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson, left, talks with pitcher Tyler Alexander during his last start.

Detroit — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire joked Friday night about how bizarre it was to have six starting pitchers on his lineup card. Given there were long stretches this season where they struggled to scrape together four, yeah, it was odd, for sure.

“That we have six, that’s amazing,” he said.

The Tigers, in a rugged stretch of the schedule, are going to need all of them. By Aug. 26, they will have played 24 games in 25 days.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Gardenhire cracked.

Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been kicking around several strategies on the best way to get through this stretch. Complicating the process is the reality that both Daniel Norris and Spencer Turnbull are approaching their innings limits.

More: Cleaning house: Tigers release Josh Harrison and former prospect Sandy Baez

Using piggy-back starts, a strategy used mostly in spring training of using two starters in the same game, is one option that’s been discussed. And toward that end, Gardenhire said lefty Tyler Alexander would be working out of the bullpen for now.

 “I think (Edwin) Jackson warrants another start, in my opinion,” he said.

No argument there. Jackson, in his first start in a Tigers uniform since 2009, allowed one run in 6.1 innings Friday night.

“We can use Alexander a couple of different ways and keep him stretched out,” Gardenhire said. “He can piggy-back — we have Turnbull going (Satruday) and with Alexander in the 'pen, we have some length behind him.”

It’s possible they will piggy-back Drew VerHagen and Norris, too.

“With the day off (Monday), we talked about using VerHagen to back-up Norris because we have to limit innings with Norris," Gardenhire said. "But that’s just something we’re throwing around. It’s not written down yet. We have to protect his innings.

“It’s an organizational policy that they can only go a certain percentage over what they did last year, and we’re going to make sure we don’t kill the kid.”

Norris, who pitched 71.2 innings last season including winter ball, is at 117.1 innings. Turnbull, who just made his second start since coming off the injured list, was at 101.2 innings. He worked 135.2 innings last season.

More: Tigers rookie John Schreiber glad to get MLB debut out of way

Also in the mix is veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. On the injured list since Aug. 5, he had a nerve block injection in his neck and threw long-toss off flat ground beyond 100 feet Saturday. He would be eligible to come off the injured list Thursday.

If he does, then going forward, the rotation could look like this:



►Matthew Boyd



There is one other factor that could alter this plan. Boyd could be going on paternity leave at any moment. Wife Ashley is full-term with their second child. They are expecting a son.

Christin Stewart remains in concussion protocol.

Extended stay for Stewart

Tigers rookie left fielder Christin Stewart was removed from his rehab assignment and remains on the injured list and in Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol.

“He didn’t progress,” Gardenhire said. “He had another setback. MLB has very strict rules. If you feel anything you go back to testing.

"If it doesn’t come out with a zero on it, then has to go back through the process.”

Stewart, who was concussed slamming into the left field wall in Anaheim on July 29, played in three rehab games at Toledo before being pulled out.

“I had some of the same symptoms I had back in Anaheim,” Stewart said. “And with this protocol, I kind of have to restart.”

He said he wasn’t completely shut down. He did a full non-baseball workout Saturday under the supervision of team physician Dr. Michael Workings.

“He wanted me to push it, cardio, and raise the heart rate to see how I felt after,” Stewart said. “That went well. I will do it again tomorrow and if it keeps going well, maybe I can get back to doing the baseball stuff.”

This is the first time Stewart has dealt with a concussion.

“I mean, I’m glad everything is going well,” he said. “But it’s kind of scary. It’s something that’s hard to explain the symptoms. All you know is that you don’t feel right.”

Around the horn

Both center fielder JaCoby Jones (left wrist) and third baseman Jeimer Candelario (left thumb) were sent for CT scans Saturday.

“We just want to make sure because JaCoby is still sore, same with Jeimer,” Gardenhire said. “Jeimer’s thumb is still sore and it’s on the outside. Normally when you get jammed, it’s on the inside. We just need to make sure.”

... Reliever Trevor Rosenthal, whom the Tigers designated for assignment Wednesday, cleared waivers and elected free agency.

Royals at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 Sunday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/Radio: FSD/97.1


RHP Jakub Junis (7-10, 4.58), Royals: He’s coming off a strong start at Fenway Park, limiting the Red Sox to a run in six innings. His 130 strikeouts leads the Royals and 94 of them have come off his slider. That’s the third-most slider-induced punch-outs in the big leagues.

LHP Daniel Norris (3-9, 4.76), Tigers: A couple of solo home runs by the White Sox marred his stat line in his last start, but he’s been solid over his last four starts – allowing seven runs in 21 innings (3.00 ERA) with an opponents’ OPS of .779. He’s been attacking the zone, as his 66 percent strike rate would attest.


Twitter: @cmccosky