Brayan Villarreal shut down from winter ball due to a sore elbow

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Jason Beck of MLB.com passes along word that Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal has been shut down from the Venezuelan Winter League due to a sore elbow.

Villareal tossed three scoreless innings over three appearances with Caribes de Anzoategui before first complaining about his elbow in mid-December. Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported that he was immediately brought back to the United States for tests, which revealed inflammation but no structural damage. That report has since been confirmed by the Tigers.

Villareal was originally expected to resume throwing yesterday, which would have left open the possibility of him pitching during the playoffs, but the Tigers have decided to play things safe and have him focus on being ready for spring training. The 25-year-old right-hander also dealt with some inflammation in his elbow back in August, so it’s tough to blame them.

Villareal posted a 2.63 ERA and 66/28 K/BB ratio over 54 2/3 innings last season. Armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s, he projects to pitch in middle relief again in 2013, but the opportunity could be there for him to earn a more prominent late-inning role.