Elbow soreness flares again, remainder of season in peril for Tigers' Matthew Boyd

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Thursday was a well-earned off day for the Tigers, but lefty Matthew Boyd likes to throw the day before he starts. So, he dragged catcher Dustin Garneau to Comerica Park so he could stay on his routine.

It ended up being anything but routine. Boyd was scratched from his start on Friday after feeling soreness and discomfort in his left elbow. Manager AJ Hinch said Boyd would be going back on the injured list and pending further medical tests, the remainder of his season is in jeopardy.

Tigers starter Matthew Boyd suffered another setback.

“It’s a recurring soreness, similar to what he had before,” Hinch said. “Bad news for us and bad news for him.”

Boyd had just returned from a 10-week stint on the injured list. The Tigers listed the injury as general arm discomfort, but the pain was localized in the forearm and elbow. He made three rehab starts and two starts after he was activated, the last being last Saturday in Cincinnati.

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Boyd, who indicated that swinging the bat earlier in the year in Milwaukee had precipitated the initial arm soreness, swung the bat several times in the game Saturday, even collecting his third big-league hit in the game.

“You are always concerned when it’s a recurring issue,” Hinch said. “Obviously, he had three rehab starts and two starts back in the big leagues where he felt perfectly fine. And then he goes out and plays catch and doesn’t feel good.

“At this time of year, he’s going to miss at least a couple of starts. We’ll see if he can make it back before the end of the year. But we need to do more testing and get to the bottom of why this keeps happening.”

Counting Friday, Boyd was expected to make five more starts before the end of the season. Hinch was asked why the club wouldn’t just shut him down now out of an abundance of caution.

“Because I want to have a doctor review it before I make any plans,” he said. “We need to get a full assessment of what is going on. Clearly, that will be discussed.”

It’s horrible timing for Boyd, who is 30 and going into his second arbitration winter. A strong finish would have cemented his spot in the Tigers’ plans for 2022. He’s making $6.5 million this year and by conservative estimate, could earn between $7 million and $9 million next year.

Boyd was a staple and workhorse of the Tigers' rotation in 2018 and 2019, making 63 starts and posting a 4.48 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 355.2 innings. He also averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings. But the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was rough, both physically and performance-wise.

And, after starting strong this season (1.94 ERA and a .203 opponent average and .270 opponent slug over the first seven starts), things got choppy again. Over his last eight starts, wrapped around the IL stint, he posted a 6.08 ERA, .305 opponent average and .519 opponent slug.

The decision to tender Boyd for 2022 was already going to be a tough discussion. The recurrence of elbow discomfort and pending further medical tests clouds it even more.

Lefty Tyler Alexander got the start Friday against the Rays. Hinch said they didn't have time to summon another player from Toledo to fill the roster spot. 

Call to the Hall

With bench coach George Lombard and quality control coach Josh Paul still away from the team due to COVID-19 protocol, Hinch brought aboard a familiar face to serve as interim bench coach. 

Alan Trammell, special assistant to general manager Al Avila who was just in Cooperstown attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, will be in uniform and working the bench for this weekend series.

"We searched long and hard to replace Lombard and Paul on the bench," Hinch said, with a wry smile. "So we went to the Hall of Fame and said, 'Alan Trammell, come on down to the dugout.'

"It's really nice to have him as a resource."

Hinch played for Trammell in Detroit in 2003, so it's a little bit of a role-reversal. 

"It'll be a little awkward bossing Tram around, but I'll do my best," Hinch joked. "Going back to 2003 when he used to yell at me behind the scenes. I'll get to return the favor."

Not that he's been holding on to that for 18 years or anything, right?

"Yeah, 18 years is a long time to carry that burden," he said, laughing. "I get my payback today."

Lombard, who tested positive, Paul and pitching coach Chris Fetter, both shut down due to contact tracing, took part in pre-game meetings via Google Duo Friday. 

"I did let Lombard and JP know, two for the price of one," Hinch said. "They both were replaced by Trammell." 

New bullpen catcher

The Tigers have also been down a bullpen catcher the last few days with Jeremy Carroll also a victim of contact tracing. For the Rays series, the Tigers called up back-up catcher Jon Rosoff from Double-A Erie to work in the bullpen. 

"Twice in the last two games I tried to get two guys up at the same time (in the bullpen) and it's pretty tough to do," Hinch said. "Kyle Funkhouser (reliever) was serving as a bullpen catcher in the last game in Pittsburgh.

"That's what put us over the edge as far as getting an extra catcher here."

Rosoff, 26, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He's been in the Tigers' organization since 2018. 

Around the horn

The Tigers had another player test positive for COVID-19. Reliever Miguel Del Pozo felt symptoms Thursday night and had a positive test Friday morning. He will be quarantined for a minimum of 10 days.

Right-hander Drew Carlton was recalled from Triple-A Toledo to fill in for Del Pozo. The Mud Hens are in Iowa. Carlton was expected to arrive by game time and be available Friday. 

... Reliever Joe Jimenez and Lombard, both of whom tested positive in Pittsburgh, were both able to leave the hotel and come home. 


Twitter: @cmccosky

Rays at Tigers

►First pitch: 6:10 p.m.

►TV/Radio: BSD, 97.1

Scouting report

►RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 5.28), Rays: The Rays have juggled their rotation a bit. Archer was supposed to pitch in tandem with Michael Wacha on Friday. This will be his fourth start after missing more than three months with an elbow injury. He hasn't thrown more than 78 pitches in an outing this season. 

►RHP Casey Mize (7-7, 3.57), Tigers: He made the most of his restricted-innings start in Cincinnati, dispatching all nine batters he faced in 34 pitches. Two pivotal developments for Mize in his first full season in the big leagues: The ability to command his four-seam fastball up in the zone and in on both sides of the plate. Secondly, his slider has become his most effective pitch (.181 opponent average) and plays well off the fastball.

— Chris McCosky