MINNEAPOLIS – The first sign for Matt Moore that his rehab process might not be going as he hoped was when his right knee locked up on him when he was stretching earlier this week. The worse sign came Friday when he was long-tossing at Target Field and felt his knee slip.
“I’m in my fifth or sixth throw and when I planted, it just felt like your knuckles just slid across,” Moore said. “It wasn’t sharp pain or nothing like that, but the instability told me that it might not be in our control to let this heal up on its own during the season.”
With that in mind, Moore – who initially injured his knee last Saturday, April 6, against the Royals -- will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the knee. Dr. Keith Meister will perform the surgery on Wednesday in Dallas.
The exact nature of the surgery depends on the degree of the meniscus tear, which won’t be clear until it is opened up. But the fact that Moore has at least been able to walk without pain has him optimistic that he’ll only need minor surgery, which would mean a potential return timetable of 4-6 weeks.
“If it was the end of the season or September, maybe we don’t have to get it fixed and let the offseason do its thing,” Moore said Sunday morning. “But two times I’ve felt it slide around, and it doesn’t make me feel like it’s going to get better.”
The injury ends what was an encouraging start for Moore, who tossed 10 scoreless innings over two starts, allowing three hits and notching nine strikeouts, before injuring his knee in the third inning last Saturday.
Daniel Norris is currently slotted into Moore’s rotation spot, though the Tigers are skipping his slot following Friday’s snow-out against the Twins. Norris is expected to make his first start later this week against the White Sox, likely Saturday.
Don’t expect the Tigers to pursue another starter in the meantime. Norris competed for a starting spot in Spring Training before losing out to Spencer Turnbull. The Tigers want to see what Norris can do now that he’s healthy, as they try to figure out their long-term rotation plans before their crop of highly-ranked prospects begins to arrive next year.
Moore was counted on as a stopgap, having signed a one-year contract last fall. But he’s optimistic he’ll still be able to fill his role by the start of the summer.
“I think, in general, 4-6 weeks is pretty quick to have surgery and to get something cleaned up that’s bugging me now to where I can’t throw on it,” Moore said. “That’s a pretty fast turnaround.”
Ronny Rodriguez returns
Ronny Rodriguez spent his Sunday morning in flight to Minneapolis from Norfolk, Va., where Triple-A Toledo played an extra-inning game on Saturday night. Rodriguez didn’t play in that game, which was a pretty clear sign he would be recalled by the Tigers to fill injured shortstop Jordy Mercer’s roster spot.
Rodriguez arrived at Target Field to find his name in the starting lineup at second base.
“He may have to walk up and hit in his clothes his first at-bat, but he’s playing,” manager Ron Gardenhire joked.
Rodriguez went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk in the Tigers' 6-4 loss to the Twins.
The Tigers opted for Rodriguez over other candidates for a couple of reasons. Though Rodriguez doesn’t play shortstop as regularly or adeptly as Pete Kozma, Rodriguez is on the Tigers 40-man roster and Kozma isn’t.
Plus, with the Tigers bench so thin -- Nicholas Castellanos is still bothered by a sprained right big toe, Niko Goodrum is sick and Josh Harrison is dealing with a sore left shoulder -- Gardenhire was looking for versatility.
“Right now, I need somebody that can play all over the place,” Gardenhire said. “He can play outfield, he can play infield. We have nobody on the bench. We needed to have a body here that can play everywhere, and he’s the guy, really.”
Thirdly, Rodriguez brings more offense, which is a consideration for a Tigers club that has struggled offensively so far this season.
“He brings energy, which we love,” Gardenhire said. “He can swing it. He can run into one.”