Detroit — It came down to the lesser of three bad options for Tigers veteran reliever Blaine Hardy. After pitching, and mostly pitching well, through elbow and forearm pain all season, it came down to this:
►He could continue pitching through the pain, which recently had been having negative consequences.
►He could have surgery, which would cost him the 2020 season. Losing a full year, at age 32, was a non-starter.
►He could have a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection, which will shut him down for the rest of the season.
Hardy chose the third option. His season is over.
He gave the Tigers 44 1/3 innings, posting a 1.150 WHIP, second best on the club behind the traded Shane Greene. Opponents hit just .232 against him with a sub-.300 on-base average (.282), though the 10 home runs he gave up tied his career-high.
The exit velocity on balls put in play against him was 84.8 mph, which is in the top three percentile in baseball. The hard-hit rate against him, 29.3 percent, is in the top 7%.
Pretty remarkable considering the pain in his elbow effectively forced him to abandon one of his best pitches — the cutter, the pitch he threw more than any other last season.
"Early on, we didn't push it too much," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He only went multiple innings maybe once or twice (twice since July, six times since he came back off the injured list May 11) and only when he said he was feeling fine.
"We knew what we were playing with — the elbow soreness and it started from spring training. We knew we wouldn't be able to extend him."
Still, it was clear last week the elbow was barking again. In his last three outings, which covered just 2/3 of an inning, he gave up six hits, a run and allowed three inherited runners to score.
After Thursday night's game general manager Al Avila announced that Hardy — who along with Buck Farmer are the longest-tenured players not named Miguel Cabrera — had been optioned back to Triple-A Toledo.
Hardy, though, asked for a second medical opinion on his elbow. He was examined by James Andrews on Monday. That’s when he was presented with the three options. Because he used the 72-hour window before he had to report to Toledo to get the second opinion, and never actually reported, the option will be rescinded and he will be on the MLB injured list.
That last minor-league option has great value to Hardy. Retaining it will make it easier for him to find a job this offseason, whether it’s with the Tigers or not.
Mariners at Tigers
First pitch: Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
LHP Marco Gonzales (12-9, 4.25), Mariners: He beat the Tigers in Seattle on July 27, allowing a run with eight strikeouts over seven innings. He’s allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his last 11 starts.
RHP Edwin Jackson (2-5, 9.35), Tigers: You couldn’t have scripted his return to Detroit much better. Back in a Tigers uniform for the first time since 2009, Jackson last Friday night walked off the field to a standing ovation after limiting the Royals to a run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old’s fastball was sitting 95 mph and touched 97.