Tigers Could Soon See Return of Injured Al Alburquerque


The Detroit Tigers have played the entire 2012 season without a key member of their 2011 AL Central Division Championship club. Suddenly, it appears as if they could get a boost in an area of need before the post-season push really begins. No, we aren’t talking about DH Victor Martinez, whose return from microfracture surgery and a torn ACL is still very much in doubt. We are speaking of last season’s surprising rookie reliever Al Alburquerque.

James Schmel of MLive has the skinny:

"Reports coming out of Toledo suggest Alburquerque has significantly strengthened his right elbow, which required surgery in December to stabilize a non-displaced stress fracture.That was apparent when he struck out five in 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the Mud Hens on Wednesday night. He now has a 3.18 ERA an 8:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 5 2/3 innings for Toledo.It was the fourth appearance he’s made in Toledo and his eighth overall since being assigned July 24. Now, it appears the ball is in Detroit’s court."

The Tigers have maintained pace with the division-leading White Sox despite a leaky bullpen of late. Right hander Brayan Villarreal was held out of the club’s recent series in Minnesota due to right elbow inflammation, though an MRI showed no structural damage. Villarreal’s loss only added injury to ineffectiveness, as stalwarts Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke have taken turns throwing gasoline on the opposing fires. During one recent stretch of outings, Benoit had allowed 12 hits over a 15.2 inning span. That’s fantastic except when you consider that a full 10 of those 12 hits left the yard.

With Villarreal’s status in question and Benoit and Coke struggling sop greatly, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has precious few late-inning options worthy of trusting. Octavio Dotel has been tremendous and Jose Valverde seems to have gotten back to his usual reliable (though maddening) self. That said, what club couldn’t use a pitcher who posted a 1.87 ERA and a remarkable 13.9 strikeouts per nine in his only major league season?

For more on the Tigers, check out Motor City Bengals.

John Parent is the Senior Director of Human Resources for the Fansided Network. He can be reached at john.parent@fansided.com or voa Twitter @JohnJParent.