DETROIT -- The sight of Francisco Liriano throwing in left field before the Tigers took batting practice Saturday afternoon was a reassuring sign that the left-hander was at least able to pitch. He was available for Saturday's game against the Indians in relief if needed, even though he was scratched
DETROIT -- The sight of Francisco Liriano throwing in left field before the Tigers took batting practice Saturday afternoon was a reassuring sign that the left-hander was at least able to pitch. He was available for Saturday's game against the Indians in relief if needed, even though he was scratched from the scheduled start following an allergic reaction on the team's off-day Thursday.
That will likely be a relief to teams potentially interested in acquiring the veteran hurler as a starter or reliever for the stretch run.
Just what caused the allergic reaction, however, remains a mystery. Blood tests conducted at a local hospital were still being examined, and Liriano could undergo more testing on the upcoming off-day Monday. So far, it is not believed to be a food allergy, given the symptoms.
"He's still got rashes on his side and everything," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're still doing all the blood work and they won't have that until Monday."
Blaine Hardy started Saturday's game in Liriano's place.
Allergies can be caused by something as subtle as a change in laundry detergents or shower soap. The symptoms were strong enough to sideline Liriano from his usual work between starts, including his pre-start side session, which led the Tigers to scratch him from Saturday's assignment.
Barring something unforeseen with Jordan Zimmermann before his scheduled start Sunday, the only way Liriano pitches again before Tuesday afternoon's non-waiver Trade Deadline will be as a reliever. Considering his appeal as a lefty reliever, that might be fitting for a lot of teams anyway.
Fulmer could resume throwing next week
Michael Fulmer could resume his throwing program early next week after progressing faster than expected from the oblique strain that landed the right-hander on the 10-day disabled list a week ago.
"If it was up to him, it would be happening right now," Gardenhire said, "and that's why we have to calm him down, keep him under our control here."
Fulmer has been doing workouts that don't involve much rotation, so as not to risk aggravating his oblique, but he has been doing workouts to strengthen his core muscles. He believes he could be back pitching sooner than expected, though the Tigers haven't put out a public timetable on it.
A quick return likely won't impact his trade market much. Though the Tigers traded Justin Verlander at the end of August last year, Verlander was able to clear trade waivers thanks to his large contract, something Fulmer -- who isn't eligible for arbitration until this coming offseason -- doesn't have. Even if teams have interest when he returns, a team can put in a claim simply to block him from a rival, with no intention to acquire him.
Tigers claim lefty reliever on waivers
The Tigers added a lefty reliever to their organization Saturday by claiming former Mets and Pirates southpaw Josh Smoker off waivers from Pittsburgh and assigning him to Triple-A Toledo. The Pirates designated him for assignment on Monday.
Smoker, a former first-round pick, struggled in Pittsburgh this season, allowing seven runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings with five walks and two strikeouts. His numbers at Triple-A Indianapolis were more encouraging, with a 2.83 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 35 innings.
"He's got a great arm, we know that," Gardenhire said. "Will he throw it over? That's been one of the question marks with him. And now, we'll just wait and see. Left-handed people that can get people out in the big leagues are a big thing."
The fact that the waiver claim comes amidst Daniel Stumpf's struggles in Detroit was not meant as a message, Gardenhire said.
"We've got Stumper and he's had his struggles; we all know about that," Gardenhire said. "This is just another arm down there that we've put in there, and we'll see what happens."
Gardenhire said he had a conversation about Joe Jimenez and his pitch mix after the young right-hander gave up a go-ahead RBI single in Friday's loss. Jimenez threw fastballs with 21 of his 23 pitches and did not throw a slider, something catcher James McCann attributed to the hitters he was facing.
"You have to use all your pitches in this league," Gardenhire said. "We've always said that. You can't just rear back and fire. With great hitters, they're going to make adjustments and shorten their swing."
The Phillies were among the teams with a scout in attendance at Comerica Park on Friday, an indication they could still have some interest in shortstop Jose Iglesias after acquiring infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets earlier Friday.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.