Thanks to playing in baseball’s worst division the Tigers look headed to the postseason despite Jarrod Washburn posting a 7.33 ERA in eight starts since arriving via trade with the Mariners, but now his status for the playoffs is in doubt. That is, if the Tigers even wanted him stepping on the mound in October.
Washburn allowed four runs in the first inning of yesterday before exiting with pain in the left knee that has bothered him for much of the season. As manager Jim Leyland put it after an ugly 11-1 loss: “Right now, it doesn’t appear he’s pitchable.” No structural damage has been found via multiple MRI exams, but Washburn made it clear that something significant is wrong:
It’s just as bad, or maybe a little worse, than it’s been. The pain has been pretty bad, but it’s never swelled up. And today after just one inning, it swelled up pretty bad. I don’t know if something else got hurt in there or what. It’s definitely not getting better. I’ve tried to pitch through it, and I’m not helping the team at all.
We’ve tried everything. I don’t know if there’s anything more that we can try from a treatment standpoint or medication or shots or things like that. We’ve tried everything we can to try to get the pain out of there and put it at a tolerable level. Just nothing’s worked right now.
Detroit’s rotation is a mess right now and the Tigers have lost six of their last eight games despite playing the lowly Royals and Blue Jays, but ultimately they’ll probably limp into the playoffs with or without Washburn. And once there the Tigers can take advantage of the drawn-out postseason schedule to lean heavily on Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Rick Porcello in the rotation and Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, and Ryan Perry in the bullpen.
Washburn has been a complete bust and Detroit has just the 10th-best record in baseball at 77-67, but barring a total collapse they’re headed to the playoffs and have the top-end talent to make a deep run once their lack of rotation depth is no longer a major factor.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.