Last week Max Scherzer pitched with a heavy heart, starting a game three days after his brother’s death, but now the Tigers right-hander will miss at least one turn in the rotation with a hamstring injury.
Scherzer was scheduled to start today versus Minnesota, but Duane Below will make the start instead. General manager Dave Dombrowski told Anthony Odoard of MLB.com that the Tigers “have confidence” that Scherzer will remain on the active roster and start Sunday.
He apparently suffered the injury while doing some between-starts running and wasn’t happy with how it felt when testing it with a bullpen session yesterday.
Scherzer leads the American League with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings, but for the second straight season he’s allowed opponents to bat above .270 with a disappointing ERA (4.98). He has been much improved since a brutal April, posting a 3.95 ERA and 87/19 K/BB ratio in 66 innings since May 1.
The Tigers torched the Red Sox for 12 hits Saturday in a dominant 10-0 victory. But it wasn’t all roses and pom-poms at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
As noted by Tom Gage of the Detroit News, Tigers starter Doug Fister was lifted in the top of the fourth inning after feeling a tug on the left side of his body while making a pitch to Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Fister was later diagnosed with a left side strain and will be further evaluated Sunday.
The 28-year-old right-hander had thrown 3 2/3 scoreless innings. If he’s forced to the 15-day disabled list, the Tigers could give left-hander Duane Below a shot at some spot starts. He was, after all, stretched out this spring.
Fister posted a 2.83 ERA and 146/37 K/BB ratio in 32 outings last year between the Tigers and Mariners.
UPDATE, 8:04 PM: Fister has been placed on the disabled list with a left costochondral strain, according to MLB.com beat writer Jason Beck. And reliever Brayan Villarreal has been recalled from Triple-A Toledo.
From the Detroit Free Press‘ official Twitter feed comes word that the Tigers have named 22-year-old left-hander Drew Smyly as their No. 5 starter.
Smyly posted a 2.84 ERA and tallied 10 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings this spring in the Grapefruit League, winning the job over fellow Tigers southpaw Duane Below, who surrendered nine runs in 15 2/3 frames.
Detroit doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 12, so Smyly will make one appearance in the minor leagues to open the year before being added, officially, to the major league roster.
The former second-round pick registered a 2.07 ERA and 130/36 K/BB ratio in 126 innings last season between Single-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. He has yet to throw a pitch at the Triple-A level.
The Tigers hoped they were picking up two key pieces for their pitching staff when they acquired Doug Fister and David Pauley from the Mariners last summer, but while Fister exceeded even their highest expectations, Pauley was a dud, and the reliever earned his release from the team on Monday.
Pauley, who had a 2.15 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings before the trade, went 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA for Detroit. The Tigers made the choice to move on after he gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning in his third appearance of the spring.
One wonders if the Mariners might make a move to reacquire Pauley now. The 28-year-old has always been viewed as a fringe pitcher because of his below average fastball, but he allowed just two runs and 13 hits in 27 innings at Safeco Field last season. The big ballparks certainly suit his game, so he might also be of some interest to the Padres, A’s or Rays.
With Pauley out of the mix, the Tigers will have a job up for grabs in their pen. Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Daniel Schlereth and Collin Balester are set for six spots. If they stick with their internal options, the vacancy could go Brayan Villarreal or Duane Below.
Interesting note from Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com earlier this afternoon:
No word on who the Tigers could be targeting, but they were rumored to be in talks with the Cubs for right-hander Matt Garza during the offseason.
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello already have rotation spots locked up, but the Tigers enter exhibition play with their fifth starter situation pretty unsettled. Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly, Duane Below, Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby are among the possibilities.