A few days ago, Matt Manning was on the cusp of returning to Detroit. Now he won't pitch again for the foreseeable future. It's the latest blow to a Tigers rotation ravaged by injures.
In reality, Manning was never all that close to returning at all. He had been hiding arm soreness for the better part of two weeks as he rehabbed right shoulder inflammation in Triple-A, and finally admitted to it after he labored through what was supposed to be his fourth and final rehab start Tuesday.
"He came clean today that he’s not feeling great, so he’s not going to be throwing for the foreseeable future," A.J. Hinch said Thursday. "He’s got some bicep tendinitis that he said started bothering him after his second (rehab) outing. He didn’t report it and tried to go through kind of normal soreness. Today he came clean that he's pretty sore in the front of his shoulder, which indicates shoulder tendinitis."
Manning is one of four starters from the Tigers' Opening Day rotation on the injured list, and one of five starters overall. (Six including Spencer Turnbull, who's been out since last season due to Tommy John.) He went down the same weekend in April as Casey Mize, who remains out with an elbow sprain. Neither of them will be back anytime soon.
While it would have behooved Manning to alert the Tigers to his soreness as soon as he felt it, Hinch understands why he didn't: "These guys generally want to believe that they’re good."
"They pitch through a lot of different things throughout the year. What’s sore and what’s an injury? It’s a lot different. So I don’t really blame Matty," said Hinch. "I know he was trying to get himself back. He felt a lot of pressure to come back and pitch for us as quickly as possible. He’s watching the same thing you are, which is a rotation deteriorate from a health standpoint.
"We can only operate with the information that we have and try to put him in a position to be successful. Luckily for us, he didn’t continue to try to do anything more."
Along with Mize and Tarik Skubal, the 24-year-old Manning is one of three young arms the Tigers were counting on this season -- and for many seasons to come. They were also counting on veterans Michael Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez, who are sidelined themselves. Throw in Tyler Alexander, and the Tigers have an entire rotation on the injured list. They won't rush anyone back into action, Manning in particular.
"We need as many arms back as we can, but we need them back healthy," said Hinch. "So I’m glad that he came clean today and let us know how sore he was so we can get him evaluated. He’s going to see an additional doctor, he’s going to not throw for a bit. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize anything longer than we have to."
On the bright side, Alexander (elbow sprain) had a positive throwing session Thursday and is slated to start for the Tigers on Monday. Hinch also gave a positive update on Rodriguez (ribcage sprain), who should be able to make a rehab start in the near future. And Mize, while still a ways off, is aiming to begin a throwing program next week "to where he can start to play catch," said Hinch.
"He has reported that he’s felt as best as he’s felt so far. It’s a good sign," said Hinch, understandably cautious. "Until he throws, we’re not going to know."