Julio Teheran's last-minute scratch from his scheduled start will lead to a longer absence. The Tigers placed the veteran right-hander on the 10-day injured list on Saturday with what is being classified as a right shoulder strain.
“He’s going to miss quite a few starts,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “For the foreseeable future, he’s not going to be throwing. Shoulder strains, those are very difficult to manage while throwing, so he’s going to be shut down for a period of time here.”
Teheran was examined by multiple doctors, Hinch said, and he is likely to consult with more specialists. The additional opinions involve potential rehab timelines. Surgery is not expected to be a consideration at this point, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Teheran was in his pregame warmup routine for Friday’s series opener in Cleveland when he felt tightness in his right triceps. Teheran told coaches he was willing to pitch, but the Tigers shut him down for precautionary reasons. Derek Holland stepped in from the bullpen to make the spot start and pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing a three-run home run to Franmil Reyes in the opening inning that the Tigers never overcame.
More pertinent to the Tigers’ plans without Teheran was who finished the game. Michael Fulmer pitched the final four innings in relief, allowing only another Reyes homer and a José Ramírez infield single while striking out five. He’ll step into the rotation when Teheran’s spot comes up on Wednesday in Houston.
Teheran has been surprisingly durable over his decade in the Majors. The 30-year-old made at least 30 starts in each of his seven full seasons with the Braves before making nine starts for the Angels in last year’s abbreviated season. He earned a spot in Detroit’s rotation out of Spring Training as a non-roster invite, and slotted in as the Tigers’ second starter.
“I feel for him, because he had worked to earn a spot on our team,” Hinch said. “He’s a veteran guy that was trying to get back on the right side of the evaluation process and the injury sets him back a little bit. He will do his diligence and make sure that he gets himself right. We expected him to be a stable part of the rotation and unfortunately the injury didn’t allow that to happen.”
Another potential factor in the Tigers’ long-term rotation plans is Spencer Turnbull, who threw for the alternate-site Tigers squad against their Cubs counterparts Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Turnbull, who began the season on the injured list due to COVID protocols, threw a 10-pitch inning before a rain delay ended his outing. He threw another few simulated innings at an indoor facility next door, Hinch said, but will get another alt-site outing next week.
With Fulmer moving into the rotation, the Tigers recalled right-hander Alex Lange from their taxi squad to fill Fulmer’s spot in the bullpen. It’s the first Major League stint for Lange, the Tigers’ No. 29 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The 25-year-old right-hander made a strong impression in Spring Training, his fastball bumping up to 97 mph over five Grapefruit League appearances to go along with his sharp breaking pitches.
Núñez gets glimpse of Tigers on taxi squad
The Tigers’ first road trip of the season is a bittersweet one for Renato Núñez. The hard-hitting slugger is on the trip. But instead of manning first base, he’s on the taxi squad -- ready to be called up in case the Tigers have an injury or other roster move and need another hitter, much like they needed pitching help with Lange.
While on the taxi squad, Núñez gets to work out with the team. He’s taking advantage of that and working on his defense at first base with coach Ramon Santiago. When the games start, he has to leave the ballpark and watch from the team hotel.
“I come here to the field and, obviously, I want to put my uniform on and I want to go out there and play,” Núñez said on Saturday. “But at the same time, I have to make adjustments and be working on my game. It feels great to be here -- with the coaches, with the players, being in the clubhouse and outside. You’re practicing with the team -- and it’s great. But that’s not what I want. I want to be playing. I want to play again. So we’ll see.”
Núñez was a surprising cut at the end of Spring Training, when manager A.J. Hinch decided to go with a rotation at first base. Núñez had a chance to opt out of his contract when he didn’t make Detroit’s Opening Day roster, but elected to accept an assignment to Triple-A Toledo after talking with team officials and his agent. He spent the first half of the week at the alternate training site in Toledo.
“There were a couple teams that kind of offered me the same deal as here, a Minor League deal,” Núñez said. “When I was here in Spring Training, I [liked] the team. I [liked] the coaching staff. I [liked] the players that we have. And I decided to stay here. I really like this place and hopefully I’ll be here sooner than later.”
Tigers' Minor Leaguers vaccinated
The Tigers now have vaccinated the vast majority of players, coaches and support staff throughout their system. Minor League players and staff in Spring Training in Florida were provided access to COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to players and staff at the Tigers’ alternate training site in Toledo -- a crucial point after the majority of the Tigers' Major League players and staff were vaccinated in Detroit following Opening Day.