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Julio Teheran hits the 10-day IL, Alex Lange recalled

At least until Spencer Turnbull returns, Michael Fulmer appears set to rejoin the rotation.

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Fears about Julio Teheran were confirmed on Saturday, as the Detroit Tigers placed the veteran starting pitcher on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 7, with what is described as a right shoulder strain. In his place, top relief prospect Alex Lange has been recalled from the Toledo alternate site to take his place. As a result, it appears that Michael Fulmer is on track to take Teheran’s next turn in the rotation.

Teheran was scratched from his scheduled Friday night start against Cleveland after he felt tightness in his triceps in pregame warm-ups. Oftentimes, what is initially described like a strain in the forearm, triceps, or biceps, is a precursor to a bigger problem in the elbow or shoulder once the player is evaluated by medical staff. Unfortunately that seems to be the case here as well. Based on A.J. Hinch’s comments today, as reported by The Athletic Detroit’s Cody Stavenhagen, it sounds as though Teheran will be shut down for quite some time.

The issue may have been building for a long while. Teheran had a late start to his 2020 season after signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. After recovering from COVID, he had to return to pitching without much of a camp to prepare and his shoulder bothered him all throughout the worst season of his career. In the offseason, his agent Gene Mato got Teheran to a physical therapist to re-strengthen the shoulder and it appeared to have resolved the issue. Teheran was throwing with much better velocity all spring, and the Tigers appeared to have landed a real bargain.

Now, it appears Teheran is going to need quite a bit of time to heal and rehab the shoulder, and the Tigers would be wise to take all the time he needs.

While Derek Holland stepped in for the spot start on Friday, it was Michael Fulmer who again looked very much on form, spinning four innings with five strikeouts, and a solo shot by Franmil Reyes the only blemish on his card. Since Hinch moved him to the bullpen in mid-March after a couple of very rocky outings, Fulmer has gotten better and better, recapturing much of his former velocity and showing the best slider/changeup combination of his career. He certainly looks ready to return to the rotation, though it make take a few starts to fully build up his pitch count. We’ll see what the Tigers decide when Spencer Turnbull—who threw a few innings in Toledo on Saturday against a Triple-A Chicago Cubs squad—is ready to return.

Hinch was already toying with the idea of a six-man rotation, and the combination of Turnbull and Fulmer needing their innings built up, as well as the desire to protect Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize from too intense a workload early in the season, may make a six-man rotation even more attractive as an option.

In place of Teheran, the Tigers have recalled right-handed reliever Alex Lange. Lange was one of the fastest rising prospects in camp this spring. Acquired as a struggling starting pitching prospect from the Chicago Cubs in the Nick Castellanos deal in 2019, the Tigers converted the former first-rounder to relief, and Lange has responded well. Formerly 93-94 mph with his fastball, Lange started popping 97-98 mph in the fall instructional league camp, and carried that over into spring training. Paired with a nasty mid-80’s curveball, the one-two punch should make Lange a very viable late innings relief option if he can spot his fastball more effectively.