Right-hander Justin Verlander reportedly injured himself in late December performing his offseason conditioning program, and the Detroit Tigers announced Thursday afternoon on Twitter that he has undergone surgery to repair his "core muscle." The core — probably — means belly or lower back.
Oh. Well, that puts a different spin on the Tigers offseason, heretofore dominated by the Prince Fielder trade and the hiring of manager Brad Ausmus. And whatever reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer has been up to.
Even though it sounds ominous — and the Tigers haven't released many specifics — anything other than Verlander's shoulder or elbow is preferable when it comes to surgery. Still, any kind of surgery to repair muscles, especially in the back (if that's where it happened), is enough to give Tigers observers pause (if not paws) and angst as the 2014 season approaches.
In a subsequent tweet, the Tigers said Verlander will undergo physical rehabilitation for the next six weeks. That's roughly when spring training starts Feb. 14. Team president Dave Dombrowski said he expects Verlander to be ready at the beginning of the regular season. Phew? Maybe. Probably. We'll see. It's not ideal, no matter how good he feels in February.
Something seemed off with Verlander in 2013 after he set the bar impossibly high in in 2011 and 2012. Coming off a Cy Young/AL MVP sweep in '11, he dominated again the next season before falling off: He posted a 3.46 ERA, allowed his highest hit rate since 2006 and his highest walk rate since 2008. He wasn't bad, he just wasn't great. He also didn't look as good as Scherzer. Not terribly worrisome, but with Verlander having turned 30 years old with nearly 1,800 innings logged, decline is something to watch out for.
Is the injury he suffered in December somehow related to a drop in performance? Will it inhibit Verlander from returning to dominance, or sustaining what he showed in 2013? Your shrug is as good as ours.
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