Maeda (abdominal discomfort) to undergo tests Thursday after exit

June 6th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- For the second consecutive night, an injury forced a Tigers starting pitcher out of a game. This time, Kenta Maeda threw just two pitches Wednesday against the Rangers at Globe Life Field before leaving with right-side abdominal discomfort in the Tigers' 9-1 loss to the Rangers, which was highlighted by Justyn-Henry Malloy's HR for his first career hit.

Maeda will undergo testing Thursday to determine the extent of the injury, and whether he’ll need a stint on the injured list. He missed time on the 15-day IL last month with a viral illness.

“It’s unfortunate that I only pitched two pitches and felt discomfort in the rib area,” Maeda said through translator Dai Sekizaki. “I feel bad for our relievers who came in, and that I had to tax the bullpen tonight.”

Though Maeda said he has dealt with side discomfort in his career, this was in a different area. He said he felt tightness after his first pitch of the game to Rangers leadoff man Marcus Semien. After the second pitch, he grimaced and grabbed at his right side, prompting a visit from the athletic training staff and manager A.J. Hinch.

“He said he felt some issue with his right side back in the bullpen before the game started, didn’t really think much of it,” Hinch said. “He then came out and you could see him sort of poke at himself and looked uncomfortable.

“We had him throw a couple pitches. He was very easy in those, which actually gave us more concern because he didn’t even let it go like he was testing it all that much. So I took the ball.”

The two pitches marked the shortest start by a Major League pitcher since then-Marlin Pablo López was ejected after his first and only pitch on July 2, 2021 at Atlanta, having hit Braves leadoff man Ronald Acuña Jr. Maeda is the first Tigers starter to not retire a batter since Michael Fulmer left with injury after two batters and five pitches at Cleveland on Sept. 15, 2018.

Joey Wentz replaced Maeda with a 1-1 count and retired two batters before walking the bases loaded. He escaped that jam with a strikeout of Wyatt Langford, but left in the third inning with a run in and two on. Mason Englert, recalled from Triple-A Toledo a day after being optioned, gave up a Jonah Heim home run on his first pitch but covered 3 1/3 innings from there.

By game’s end, the Tigers turned to Zach McKinstry for the final two outs. He threw four pitches.

Maeda’s exit comes one night after back stiffness forced Jack Flaherty out of his start after five scoreless innings. Flaherty said Wednesday that he was feeling improvement in his back and expects to be ready for his next start, likely next Tuesday against the Nationals at Comerica Park.

The Tigers have rotation flexibility coming thanks to scheduled off-days Thursday and next Monday. They might need to be flexible if Maeda misses time. Detroit also has a bullpen in flux after placing Alex Faedo on the 15-day injured list Wednesday with right hip inflammation.

“We’ll have a number of guys getting tested,” Hinch said. “So we’ll see where it takes us.”

The Tigers are used to having to adjust their pitching on the fly in Texas. During their series here last year, they lost starter Matthew Boyd after just 15 pitches with a left elbow injury, leading to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Will Vest left the same game with right knee discomfort. Later in the same series, Reese Olson was knocked out of his start by a comebacker off his left knee.