Two Detroit Tigers pitchers will start the 2015 season on the disabled list. Justin Verlander, for a career-first, and Bruce Rondon, for the second time in as many seasons. Verlander has been placed on the disabled list retroactively to the day following his last start, March 28, and will be eligible to return April 12 if his arm recovers in due time. In Rondon's case, there is no timetable for his return. He has been placed on the disabled list retroactively to April 1.
After being pulled on March 28 for what was being called a "triceps cramp" at the time, Verlander was unable to shake the lingering soreness, and the Tigers eventually called it as a "slight strain." However, he was unable to pitch in even a minor league game Friday, and it placed significant doubt on whether Verlander would be able to make his first start.
Thursday morning pitching coach Jeff Jones said that Verlander felt "markedly better," but the Tigers decided the best course of action was to place Verlander on the disabled list. Not only will he miss his first start of the season, April 8 against the Minnesota Twins, Verlander's start on April 12 against the Cleveland Indians is now in jeopardy.
"Me speculating wouldn't change the facts," Ausmus told reporters (via Chris Iott of MLive) "and the facts are his arm will let us know when he is going to be able to pitch. I will say, and I've said it from the get-go, I don't think this is an injury that is going to be a long-term issue. He said after throwing pretty firm (Wednesday) that he felt better today. So that's a good sign."
Ausmus did announce what his starting rotation will look like in the meantime. Following David Price's start on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins, Ausmus will put Anibal Sanchez on the mound April 8 and send Shane Greene out on April 9. Alfredo Simon will open the Indians series on April 10, with Price scheduled to make his next start a day later. How the rotation looks after that will depend on how Verlander feels.
As for the bullpen, the Tigers needed Rondon to be healthy and for the most part they treated him with kid gloves throughout spring training, manager Brad Ausmus making a point on several occasions that caution was the best course of action with the flame-throwing righthander.
Rondon nearly made it out of camp without a hiccup in the plan, but Wednesday Rondon woke up with a sore shoulder. Thursday morning he underwent an MRI, which showed right biceps tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons). Rondon was supposed to pitch in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, an important marker for whether he would be healthy enough to go north with the team, but the shoulder soreness prevented that.
The season will begin with David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene. Whether the Tigers will need to call up a starter from the minors -- likely Kyle Lobstein -- is yet to be seen. For the bullpen, it creates another opening, one that right-handed reliever Angel Nesbitt is now all but a lock to fill. If Verlander is able to recover by April 12, there will be no reason to call up another starter, and will in no way affect the rotation. As for Rondon, we'll have to wait and see.