During an offseason conditioning session, Justin Verlander suffered an injury, but quickly had it repaired just a little over a week later. The Detroit Tigers announced that Verlander will undergo a six week rehabilitation program and will ready to go before the season starts. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus says Verlander will be good to go, as does GM David Dombrowski. That's good news. But what if something goes wrong and Justin Verlander isn't healthy in time?
Mass hysteria among Tigers fans everywhere, that's what would happen. But besides the obvious, what would the club do in the absence of one of the league's best pitchers? First off, the rotation would become completely reworked; 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer would stay in his #1 starter role, Anibal Sanchez would move to the #2 hole, Rick Porcello would move to #3, and Drew Smyly would shift to the #4 starter. As for the 5th pitcher, that's a whole other can of worms. Here are the Tigers options:
They could bring up starter Jose Alvarez from Triple A and let him fill the role for a few starts or even a few weeks, depending on how long Verlander is out for. Or, the team could move Joba Chamberlain from the bullpen to the starting rotation; he was a starter in his younger days, but this may be a bit risky as many question whether Joba still has it or not. And finally (if the team really wanted to make a splash), they could sign free-agent SP Ervin Santana to a deal and switch the rotation accordingly. And if they were to sign Santana, Smyly would most likely return to relief duty once Verlander returned. While there are other options, these three seem the most fitting as many of the club's pitchers such as Al Alburquerque, Evan Reed, and Luke Putkonen are simply not capable of being a MLB starting pitcher.
And while the thought of losing the work horse we all call Justin Verlander to an injury, it is possible. Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland tore his meniscus and is now out until the All Star Break. While a torn meniscus and a core injury are quite different, it's worth thinking about. Besides, stranger things have happened. And while many criticize Verlander for his performance last season, he is still one of the best in the game and losing him will be a giant blow to the club.
But what might possibly be the kicker of this whole scenario is that trading Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals will look like a terrible move on the front office's part. Fans are already a bit upset about seeing their beloved 6'8 SP pack his bags and head to the nation's capitol, but if Verlander goes down, it will look even worse.
Try not to have nightmares thinking about this situation.