Don’t count out Tigers from relief market

The Tigers could allow themselves a sigh of relief on Thursday upon learning that Al Alburquerque’s elbow issues aren’t serious. The diagnosis was mild inflammation, not tendinitis, and nothing structurally wrong. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they could allow themselves to relax about their bullpen situation. Whether it prompts the Tigers to look closer at middle relief options is an intriguing question heading into Sunday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

In a year when the Tigers gotten nothing from injured Joel Zumaya and next to nothing from Ryan Perry, Alburquerque and his nearly unhittable slider have been pretty much a godsend. But his elbow has been a cause for concern all summer, and a reason for conservation with his workload. Detroit lost him to the disabled list for two weeks early this month, and the void was big. The fact that Chance Ruffin, just called up from the minors in his first pro season, filled the middle-inning righty relief role without him Thursday demonstrates just how much the Tigers have relied on Alburquerque.

Whether they can stay that way for the final two months is a little bigger question now than it was a week ago. Detroit’s trade priority has always been starting pitching, and if the Tigers make one move this weekend, it’ll be for that. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if they at least look over options for righty middle relief. They were mentioned as a potential destination for Baltimore’s Koji Uehara, according to the Baltimore Sun, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they explored smaller possibilities. They don’t need a closer type, or even a setup man, but they could look for depth.

– Jason Beck

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