Two teams that started off on relatively similar paths are now going off in separate directions, as the Mud Hens get ready for the playoffs (playoff tickets go on sale this Saturday, the 13th, and can be purchased via their website; mudhens.com). Meanwhile, Erie is fighting just to stay above fourth place, as it remains the same culprits that have been haunting them the past couple months; losing top players, and having the other top players under-perform.
Focusing on the good, it's an exciting time to be a Mud Hen fan, as Toledo is poised for just its third playoff appearance in the past twenty years. They currently hold a 5.5 game lead over Indianapolis, and while there might be a bit of concern after the ‘Hens were swept by Indianapolis; they still remain firmly entrenched in the playoff outlook in the International League.
What isn't as exciting is the status of Justin Verlander. Last week we told you that he was removed from the game prior to the start of the 4th inning, but was examined and appeared to be okay. That changed when the Tigers flew him in to Detroit and decided it'd be best to be extremely cautious with the prized arm.
The Tigers sent Verlander down to Lakeland, where he'll be doing nothing but resting and soaking up the Florida sun (or rain) for the next week or so. After that, Verlander will get back on a throwing program, and progress depending on how he feels.
However, there's no guarantee he'll return to Erie this season, or really ever for that matter. Should Verlander need a couple weeks on the throwing program, it's very possible he'll head straight to Detroit once he's ready to pitch competitively again.
Verlander was diagnosed with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, a common injury resulting from fatigue. Between three levels, Verlander has pitched 130 innings, meaning he's nearing his limit that the Tigers had set for him of 150-155. The Tigers base the target innings on simply never allowing a pitcher to throw more than 50 innings than he did in the previous season. It's typically a sound philosophy, so long as it's followed.
That however wasn't the case with Wil Ledezma. After pitching 84 innings in 2004, the Tigers decided to limit him to 150, still over the target limit. Ledezma then went on to surpass his innings limit by throwing a combined 164 innings, nearly doubling his output from the prior year. For a young pitcher who had experienced arm troubles in the past, this likely wasn't a smart move.
Why? Well, surprise surprise, after struggling with his velocity and confidence for the first two months in Detroit, he was returned to Toledo. After six weeks, he was placed on the disabled list, and now is likely headed for Tommy John surgery, meaning you probably won't see him back in a Tiger uniform until next summer at the earliest.
That's not to say Ledezma's injury should be blamed entirely on Tiger manager Alan Trammell for using him too much, or the Tigers' front office for allowing him to continue to be available to pitch, but it nonetheless is yet another example of a pitcher who needed to be watched closely and wasn't, and is now paying the price.