Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kenny Rogers Hits the Disabled List (again)

While the Detroit Tigers continue to look for bullpen help ahead of Tuesday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline, they may have bigger problems. Kenny Rogers, who pitched so well when he first came off the Disabled List in June, is back on the DL, this time with "right elbow inflammation."

While Rogers has struggled recently (0-2 in his last three starts, a stretch which saw him give up 17 earned runs) this is not good news for a Tigers pitching staff, which has seen its share of ups and downs this year. Rogers was the emotional leader of the Tigers run to the World Series last year, and with Mike Maroth traded, he filled a need as our soft-tossing left-hander. When you start hard throwing power arms like Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and rookie Andrew Miller on a nightly basis, having a guy like Rogers to mix things up really keeps a team off-balance. At least for the next two weeks, the Tigers will not have that luxury.

And you have to be worried that Rogers will miss more than just the 15 days he must spend on the DL. While Danny Knobler reports the Tigers hope Rogers will only miss two starts, at 42-years-old, Rogers isn't likely to bounce back from elbow trouble as quickly as a pitcher half his age would. And even those pitchers often find elbow trouble lingering. The good news for the Tigers is that Rogers is much more valuable to them in September and October than he is July and August. Having Rogers ready and healthy for the playoffs will go a long way to determining whether or not the Tigers will be able to make it back to the World Series. No need to him back right now.

As for the man replacing Rogers in the rotation, it's an intriguing opportunity for Jodan Tata. Tata made the Detroit Tigers 25-man roster out of Spring Training last season, and since then has been considered one of the team's top starting pitching prospects (especially once the Tigers traded Humberto Sanchez in the Gary Sheffield deal). So far this season for AAA Toledo, Tata is 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts. He has struck out 30 in 63 innings of work but has walked 19. It will be a good opportunity for Tata to show his stuff (he'll start his first Major League game Monday night against Oakland) and like Rogers, Tata isn't a carbon copy of Bonderman, Verlander, or Miller.

As Tuesday's trade deadline approaches, the Rogers injury should not change the Tigers focus at all. There aren't many quality starting pitchers on the market to begin with (the best may be Cincinnati's Kyle Lohse who has an underwhelming 6-12 record) and as long they believe the injury not to be serious, even if Rogers does not return until September (and as of now, the Tigers expect him back much sooner than that), it should give him plenty of time to get in shape for the post-season (assuming, of course, the Tigers make the post-season). I would still look for bullpen help, but wouldn't sell the farm to get it (and with Rogers' injury, it probably makes it less likely the Tigers would trade away one of their better starting prospects, like Tata, to get a deal done). If something big does happen though, that likely is not good for the future, and quick return, of Kenny Rogers.

Add To: Digg! Reddit Del.Icio.Us Stumble



© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks