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.
Pablo Sandoval could be tabbed to play second base in the near future, per a report from John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. According to Shea, Sandoval has been spotted taking grounders at second during pre-game warm-ups and may be considering switching to the keystone on a part-time basis.
It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing the 31-year-old corner infielder has done this year — that distinction goes to the flawless inning of relief he pitched in a blowout loss against the Dodgers last month. But it would represent a pretty notable departure from his comfort zone even so; Sandoval has primarily manned first and third base throughout his 11-year career in the majors and has also taken a few reps at DH during his resurgence with the Giants in 2018.
Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent switch for Sandoval. As Shea points out, the Giants are thin on middle infielders after losing Joe Panik to a torn UCL in his left thumb and backup Alen Hanson to a left hamstring strain. Provided he can get up to speed quickly (no easy feat, according to infield coach Ron Wotus), he’d give the club some added depth behind Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez until Panik is ready to take the field again. Sandoval has impressed at the plate this spring, batting a healthy .270/.329/.429 with six extra-base hits and a .757 through 70 plate appearances.