Knee surgery to cost Matt Moore rest of season

April 17th, 2019

DETROIT -- Tigers left-hander Matt Moore will miss the rest of the 2019 season, following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

It’s a worse outcome than hoped when Moore initially suffered the injury a week-and-a-half ago, or even when he said last weekend that he would undergo surgery after an unsuccessful rehab attempt. Moore was optimistic he would only need to have his meniscus clipped or shaved, a less extensive surgery which usually allows a player to return in four to six weeks.

At that point, Moore and the specialists whom he and the Tigers consulted were going off the results of an MRI exam, and how Moore felt while he was rehabbing. The full extent of the damage wasn’t going to be known until and unless a surgeon went in and looked, which is what Dr. Keith Meister did Wednesday in Dallas.

“The MRI is a great diagnostic tool, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said Wednesday. “Until they get in there, they really don’t know what they’ve got. That’s where we’re at. He got in there and fixed what he saw.”

The location and extent of the tear made clipping or shaving the meniscus impractical for a recovery, according to Teter.

“For all quality of life -- long-term and his career ... the best plan was to repair it,” Teter said.

Dr. Meister and Dr. James Andrews both examined the original MRI, as did Tigers team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos.

Though Moore should be fully recovered in time for next Spring Training, the surgery could well end his brief tenure with the Tigers. Detroit signed him last November to a one-year, $2.5 million contract hoping he could enjoy a bounceback season after struggling for most of the previous two seasons in San Francisco and Texas.

Moore had the makings of a good comeback campaign, allowing just three hits over 10 scoreless innings with a walk and a nine strikeouts. He tossed seven scoreless innings in his Tigers debut at Toronto before leaving his second start after just three innings with what was then called a right knee sprain. Though Moore went to the ground in his final inning to field a Billy Hamilton bunt, he said he didn’t feel any knee discomfort until his final pitch of the inning.

Moore is the second Tigers starter in as many months to suffer a season-ending injury. Michael Fulmer, who also had a meniscus repair surgery last fall and recovered, underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last month.

So far, the Tigers have filled both injury voids internally. Spencer Turnbull stepped into Fulmer’s rotation spot with early success, while Daniel Norris is scheduled to make his first start in Moore’s place on Saturday against the White Sox.

Still, the long-term nature of the injuries could test Detroit’s depth if Norris or Turnbull struggle, or if anyone else is injured. The next insurance starters at Triple-A Toledo are left-handers Ryan Carpenter and Matt Hall.

The Tigers have a wave of highly-regarded pitching prospects on the way, including three starters in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect rankings, but none are expected to be near Major League ready until late this season at the earliest. Beau Burrows, Detroit’s top Draft pick in 2015, and Kyle Funkhouser are the only ones currently pitching above the Double-A level.