Tigers make adjustments in Moore's absence 

April 7th, 2019

DETROIT -- While Daniel Norris went back to a starting pitcher’s routine Sunday morning at Comerica Park, Drew VerHagen walked into the clubhouse, having cut his rehab assignment short at Class A Advanced Lakeland and flown north to rejoin the Tigers' bullpen. The reason for both moves: starter Matt Moore was checking out his injured right knee and weighing his options.

An MRI taken after Moore’s third-inning exit from Saturday’s start showed damage in his knee. Still unresolved is the severity, and how he can treat it.

“There's decisions to be made on how they want to attack it, whether he can go rehab it for 10 days or something like that and see how he goes,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday morning. “And then there's the other option, which would be some kind of surgery to repair it. I don't know which one he's going to do. That's going to be on him and the doctors. …

“They don't know exactly what's happened. They would have to go in and check it out and see what happened. We know there's something in there. … That's the reason he went down. The MRI showed that, but he doesn't necessarily have to have surgery if this is something that's not that bad where he could pitch with it. That's going to be the decision, what his thoughts are and how sore he is today.”

It’s not likely an easy decision for Moore, who wasn’t available for comment Sunday morning. The 29-year-old had the makings of a rejuvenation with 10 scoreless innings on three hits before Billy Hamilton’s third-inning bunt attempt Saturday sent him to the ground.

Moore has not had knee surgery in his pro career, though he spent 11 days on the injured list while with the Texas Rangers last May with right knee soreness. The Tigers looked into Moore’s medical history before signing him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract last fall.

Ready to start

As for Norris, he now slots into the back of the Tigers' rotation, according to Gardenhire. That would put him on track to start sometime next weekend at Minnesota and keep the rest of the rotation in order from Monday’s off-day until then.

“Early in the season, it’s not a bad thing to keep them all in a rotation,” Gardenhire said. “If you have an off-day, just back them up and give them an extra day. It actually helps them later on in the season if you do that rather than skip somebody because of the extra day.”

Gardenhire was thinking about Norris’ next start when he called on Norris in relief of Moore on Saturday, stretching him out for 50 pitches over three-plus innings. In hindsight, Gardenhire said, they might have overstretched Norris, who yielded a home run and an infield single in his fourth and final inning of work. But the hope is that the extra work pays off in his start.

“The mindset’s just throwing strikes and getting people out,” Norris said. “It shouldn’t change at all. Easier said than done, but that’s what I have to think about.”

It’s busy being Greene

The Tigers’ penchant for close wins so far this season has meant plenty of work for closer Shane Greene, who worked a hitless ninth inning Sunday for his Major League-leading sixth save. In doing so, he became the first big league pitcher to record saves in seven of his team’s first 10 games since Major League Baseball recognized the save as an official statistic 50 years ago.

Until Sunday, Greene was tied with Mike MacDougal (2003 Royals) and Armando Benitez (2004 Marlins) as Major League closers with six saves in their team’s first nine games.

“Does it sound cool? Yeah,” Greene said. “But I can’t control the score when I pitch. I’m just going out there to do my job.”

Two factors have helped Greene stay fresh for the workload. First, the Tigers had two off-days this week, including Friday after he pitched the previous three days. Second, all of his outings have been efficient, with two hits accounting for all of his damage in six total innings. His highest pitch count was 16 last Sunday at Toronto; none of his other outings topped 13 pitches.

“Obviously it’s still early in the season, but it’s easy to feel good now,” Greene said. “But I pride myself on being ready to pitch every single day no matter what.”

Even so, Greene will probably still have a limit as the schedule unfolds and the off-days become less frequent. Gardenhire used him on four consecutive days last May, but seems unlikely to do so again.

“Obviously you’re not going to be able to go at this pace; there’s no way,” Gardenhire said. “So we’re going to have to use other people. [Joe Jimenez] is going to get the ball in some of those situations. And getting VerHagen and guys like that who are throwing really good, we can back those guys up and tell Shane we’re putting handcuffs on him and not pitch him [that] day. I’m not afraid to do that. But at this point, because of days off, he’s fine.”

Gardy quote of the day

“We had computer problems this morning. The world stopped. That computer went out and there were people running all over the place. Five people grabbed it. I’m serious; it was unbelievable. Taking out the batteries, rebooting it, my goodness gracious.” -- Gardenhire, when asked about sorting out his rotation order.