Detroit Tigers Look to Overcome Injuries; Remain in Playoff Picture

By parmyjr22
Aug. 17, 2016

Slugger Miguel Cabrera was removed from a game earlier this week due to a bicep injury. Detroit cannot afford to lose the slugger for an extended period of time.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Not long after the Detroit Tigers pulled within 2.0 games of the Cleveland Indians for first place of the American League Central – and less than two weeks after I noted the Tigers were the healthier team – Detroit has found itself burdened with a slew of injuries. On August 6, third baseman Nick Castellanos was hit by a pitch on his hand against the New York Mets. After leaving the game, the Tigers ultimately put Castellanos on the disabled list. Since then, the Detroit Tigers have lost six of their last eight games and have fallen 5.0 games in back of the Tribe.

Detroit currently has five players on the DL; additionally, their All-Star first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, is listed as day-to-day. The injuries for the Tigers vary across the board in type and severity. Take a look at the chart below to see the current status of the injured Tigers players.

Chart 1: Detroit Tigers Battling Injuries

Third baseman Nick Castellanos landed on the DL after taking this pitch off the left hand.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the onslaught of injuries, the Tigers’ lineup and pitching must find a way to remain competitive and win ballgames even without key pieces like Castellanos, Maybin and Zimmermann. Despite the fact that center fielder Cameron Maybin and starter Mike Pelfrey are listed as mid-August returns, it is likely they won’t return until early September. Maybin is not even expected to pick up a bat until August 20. Meanwhile, Pelfrey might be able to begin a rehab assignment starting next week, but is still a way’s away. If these two can get themselves on an accelerated timetable and return by month end, Detroit will stand a better chance of leapfrogging the Indians by mid-September.

While the Tribe is not completely healthy either, their injury outlook is brighter than that of Detroit. Take a look at the chart below to see the current status of the injured Indian players.

Chart 2: Cleveland Indians Battling Injuries

With an expected return date of August 18 for starter Danny Salazar and pitcher Tommy Hunter having been rehabbing in Triple-A since August 12, the Indians can expect a significant boost to their pitching staff within the next week or two. On the downside, the Tribe lost their best offensive player, Michael Brantley, to season-ending surgery just a couple of days ago.

The Indians hope to have starter Danny Salazar back in the rotation by August 18th.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

If Detroit can manage to keep itself afloat and say within a game or two of the AL Wildcard race, the team should be in good shape once their key players are activated from the DL. Upon the return of their injured players, the Tigers should be able to make a late season push and leapfrog Cleveland before season’s end. While there are going to be many people that find that statement hard to believe, Detroit taking over first place is realistic. While Cleveland may have the best one through five starting rotation in the American League, Detroit has an extremely impressive top three with Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer. The Tigers also benefit from a world-class offense which, when operating at full capacity, can carry the team deep into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Cleveland, with Michael Brantley out for the season and what looks like a very late return of Yan Gomes, the Indians cannot out-slug the Tigers. It is my belief that by mid-September Detroit will find itself atop the AL Central and will not relinquish that position.

Notable Tigers Injury Quotes:

“I think the assumption is that he will be back at some point.” –Brad Ausmus on Jordan Zimmermann.

“I think I’m getting old. That’s the first time I pulled a muscle. I don’t think that happens when you’re younger.” – Mike Pelfrey joking about his injury.

“I don’t like it. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been told I can’t play baseball.” – Nick Castellanos

“Right now, I think my whole mindset is just trying to get back and pitch.” –Mike Pelfrey

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Miggy said he was fine tomorrow. But we’ll wait and see what he feels like tomorrow.” – Brad Ausmus

“That was kind of my fault…the throw kind of pulled him off the bag. So I feel pretty bad about that.” – Daniel Norris on his throwing error that ended Miggy’s night.

“That is how I’m looking at it. Even though I don’t get to play, the bright side is just getting the best treatment possible and coming back strong to help the team down the stretch.” –Nick Castellanos