Tigers have decision to make with Brad Thomas

Tuesday marked the two-week point in Brad Thomas’ rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. He has six appearances out of the Mud Hens bullpen, including three two-inning stints, and is expected to get his first crack at pitching back-to-back days on Tuesday. Yet there has been no talk about when Thomas might be activated from the disabled list and brought back into a Tigers bullpen that currently has three left-handers.

If you’re wondering at this point whether Thomas is headed back to the Tigers bullpen at all, you wouldn’t be the only one.

Speculation from those watching the Tigers has centered on Detroit potentially trying to find a landing spot for Thomas somewhere else, and easing their sudden lefty logjam. FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi cites a Major League source saying the Tigers “gauging trade interest” in Thomas and willing to move him. Even if they can’t deal him somewhere, they could still end up moving on without him.

It didn’t seem like a strong option when Thomas went on the disabled list a month ago with elbow inflammation, his elbow having locked up when he tried to warm up in the bullpen during a game. But high-strikeout starting prospect Charlie Furbush, who was called up to fill Thomas’ spot, has more than held his own, allowing six runs on 18 hits over 19 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts. He has progressed from long relief and mop-up work to some late-inning lefty specialist situations. Add in veteran David Purcey and curveballer Daniel Schlereth, and the Tigers like their look from the left side right now, and manager Jim Leyland doesn’t want to go back to four lefty relievers.

Thomas got off to a rough start before his DL stint, allowing 11 earned runs on 17 hits over 11 innings. Left-handed hitters went 8-for-20 (.400) with three walks and three doubles against him, compared with 9-for-24 (.375) from right-handed batters. Thomas has said his elbow had been bothering him earlier, so it could have had an impact.  By comparison, lefty hitters batted .252 (29-for-115) against Thomas last year, his first full season in the Majors. But he was more long reliever than LOOGY in 2010.

Pitchers can stay on rehab assignments for up to 30 days, so the Tigers conceivably could keep Thomas in Toledo for a couple more weeks and buy time to work out something. But Thomas is out of Minor League options, so they’d have to clear him through waivers and outright him if they wanted to keep him in Toledo beyond that. For now, Thomas was expected to pitch Tuesday for the Hens and be re-evaluated from there.

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