PITTSBURGH — Justin Verlander's sore right shoulder will likely force him to miss at least one start, the latest setback for the reeling Detroit Tigers.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus is thrilled, however, the news isn't worse. Ausmus said an MRI on Verlander's shoulder Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) revealed inflammation "in a number of different areas" but no major structural damage.
"It's not a surgical injury and as of right now it doesn't seem like he'll have to go on the DL," Ausmus said.
Verlander left Monday night's 11-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates after laboring through a first inning in which he surrendered five runs. He complained of discomfort in the shoulder afterward and added he "didn't feel great." While the initial prognosis is encouraging, he'll almost certainly won't pitch for 10 days, the latest in a series of setbacks for the reeling Tigers. Detroit, which led the AL Central by 7 1/2 games a month ago, fell into second place on Monday night behind streaking Kansas City.
Still, Ausmus remains encouraged simply because the prognosis could have been so much worse.
"It was definitely good news," Ausmus said. "Any time you're talking about a pitcher and his arm, it's a very fragile area to be talking about. It was certainly a ray of light in a stormy sky."
Ausmus said it's "unlikely" Verlander would make his next start on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners. Rookie Robbie Ray, the scheduled starter for Tuesday night's game in Pittsburgh, would fill in on Sunday if Verlander can't go.
"I don't think it would be in Justin's best interests (to pitch)," Ausmus said. "I imagine a little bit of rest would be part of the prescription."
The 31-year-old Verlander is just 10-11 with a 4.76 ERA this season for Detroit and has ceded his spot as the team's ace to fellow Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and newly acquired David Price.
Verlander is the second member of Detroit's starting rotation to be sidelined in the last week. Anibal Sanchez is on the 15-day disabled list after straining his right pectoral muscle in a loss to Toronto last Friday. Tigers will send out rookie Buck Farmer to the mound on Wednesday night when their interleague series with Pittsburgh moves to Detroit.
It's not exactly the way Ausmus drew it up. Then again, it could be worse. Barring anything "weird" coming up in the next few days, the Tigers should have Verlander back sooner rather than later. Considering how grim things appeared Monday night, Ausmus will take it.
"I'm glad this isn't a bigger issue than we thought it was 18 hours ago," he said.