Boyd exits with left knee tendinitis in loss

April 30th, 2021

First came the injury for the Tigers, then came the insult.

While manager A.J. Hinch and his squad left Chicago in the early hours of Friday morning smarting after an 11-0 loss Thursday night to cap a doubleheader sweep to the White Sox, their bigger concern -- both immediate and long-term -- was starter Matthew Boyd. He left the game in the second inning with left knee tendinitis, putting his standout opening month on hold while he awaits test results.

"He saw the doctor, he’s going to get some more tests,” Hinch said after the game. “But that’s about the extent of what I know right now, left knee tendinitis.”

Boyd, who took a 1.82 ERA into a showdown against a Chicago lineup that teed off on him last year, pitched in and out of trouble for eight batters over an inning-plus, scattering three hits and a walk. He gestured to the Tigers dugout to call for head athletic trainer Doug Teter after throwing his 36th pitch of the night, a 1-1 fastball inside to Leury García.

Boyd had a brief conversation on the mound with Teter and Hinch before leaving the game

"As he was pushing off, he could feel a little bit of something that felt abnormal,” Hinch said. “So it’s an immediate removal at that point, because we don’t want him to compensate and do anything further.”

Michael Fulmer, who just moved back to the bullpen this week after making two starts, came in from the bullpen to replace him. Four more relievers followed in what quickly became a long night for the Tigers pitching staff ahead of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

It would’ve been a tougher night for the staff if not for Casey Mize, who tossed six quality innings in a Game 1 loss. Detroit could use a similar effort from fellow rookie Tarik Skubal on Friday against the Yankees.

Boyd has never spent a day on the injured list in his pro career. The 30-year-old has been remarkably durable, partly the result of a focus on his physical conditioning the last few years. Still, he pitched through a hamstring injury for most of last season, followed by plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Boyd finished 2020 with a 6.71 ERA and a league-high 15 home runs allowed over 60 1/3 innings, including five homers against the White Sox.

A full offseason to get back to health and hone his changeup did wonders for Boyd, who has allowed one home run in 35 2/3 innings so far this season.

Hinch wasn’t speculating on potential timetables or replacements. However, if Boyd has to miss time, Fulmer would be in line to jump back into in the rotation. The Tigers have their top pitching prospect Matt Manning at Triple-A Toledo, but they’d like the right-hander to get some seasoning with the Mud Hens before deploying him further into this season.

Boyd is the second Tigers starter to suffer an injury this season. Right-hander Julio Teheran made one start this year before going on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain, an injury that’s expected to sideline him for a good chunk of the season.

Rotation injuries are nothing new for the Tigers in recent years. Detroit lost Jordan Zimmermann for much of last season with a right forearm strain suffered in Summer Camp, and lost Ivan Nova for the season in mid-August with right triceps tendinitis. Fulmer missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the Tigers lost Matt Moore and Tyson Ross early with season-ending injuries. Prospect Alex Faedo is out for this year following Tommy John surgery, and Joey Wentz is expected to resume pitching this summer following surgery last March.

Such injuries are examples why Detroit has tried to build pitching depth, including a six-man rotation at Triple-A Toledo. But with the Minor League seasons just getting underway next week, the Tigers are hoping they don’t have to dig into the farm system already. Detroit reportedly had a scout watch former Tiger Anibal Sanchez throw for teams earlier this month in Miami; Sanchez is still evaluating his options while building up velocity, according to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal.