Robertson, Everett exit with injuries
While not deemed serious, timetable uncertain for lefty, shortstop
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Tigers were supposed to become whole on Thursday night, with their four World Baseball Classic stars due back in the lineup. But manager Jim Leyland's first look at his Opening Day lineup will now have to wait.
Left-hander Nate Robertson, a strong candidate for the fifth starter's role, and starting shortstop Adam Everett both left Wednesday's game against the Mets with injuries. Though return dates for both players remain unclear, both will miss at least some time during this critical portion of camp.
Robertson sprained his left thumb attempting to field the relay of a double play in the bottom of the first inning, when shortstop Danny Worth's throw struck him on the hand. Robertson left the stadium to have an X-ray, the results of which the Tigers were still awaiting after Wednesday's game.
"I don't think it's anything," Leyland said. "He's just real swollen."
Worth was only playing because Everett had suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his left ankle the previous half-inning while sliding into second base. Attempting to stretch a single into a double after the sun's glare caused his popup to fall into shallow left field, Everett slid in safely but immediately began grimacing in pain.
"I thought he blew his knee out at first," Leyland said.
After a visit from Leyland and the training staff, Everett limped off the field. The Tigers consider him day to day.
It was a costly road trip for the Tigers, who were looking forward to welcoming Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Curtis Granderson back into the lineup for Thursday's game against the Rays. Everett was also scheduled to be in the lineup, along with the team's four other regulars. Now, the Tigers will have to wait indefinitely before they can become whole.
Everett was batting .268 this spring, with two doubles and a home run in 41 at-bats. His absence gave an opportunity to Worth, an infield prospect who already ranks among the best defenders in the Tigers' organization.
"Worth can play shortstop anywhere right now -- trust me," Leyland said.
The Tigers just didn't intend for him to do so for eight innings in Port St. Lucie.
Seemingly more serious was the injury to Robertson, both in its severity and in its implications. Regardless of the X-ray results, Leyland said he didn't expect Robertson to throw his next side session in the bullpen. That means that Robertson's next scheduled start, Monday against the Nationals, is also in doubt.
It's poor timing for a pitcher who is fighting for a job, battling rookie Rick Porcello for the fifth starter's role. Robertson was enjoying a fine spring, posting a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings heading into Wednesday's play. And though Porcello remains close behind with a 4.26 mark, Robertson has the advantage of spending the past half-dozen seasons with the Tigers -- almost exclusively as a starter.
Still, health is more important.
Robertson's injury did not come without a curious byproduct, either. Zach Miner, who joined the team in Port St. Lucie as the emergency sixth pitcher, relieved Robertson and proceeded to fire 3 1/3 shutout innings, striking out three and allowing three hits and a walk. Miner, 27, is all but a lock to make the team out of Spring Training, albeit in a bullpen role. Wednesday's performance may not have changed that, but it did raise Leyland's eyebrows just a bit.
Prior to Wednesday's outing, Minor had posted a 7.88 ERA in 16 spring innings.
"It's a perfect example of not overthinking," Leyland said. "It was a surprise, and he went out there with good stuff and pitched his butt off. When you sit around and think and think and think and think, sometimes you give people too much credit and you don't do as well. I really think that had something to do with it. His stuff is plenty good now. He went out there and pitched and looked like a very good big league pitcher today."
How Wednesday's injuries will affect the Tigers moving forward remains unclear. The team just doesn't know yet how serious Robertson's sprain is, or how long Everett will need before he can return to the lineup. What the Tigers do know is that neither injury appears serious, and that their subs performed admirably.
Given how grave Wednesday could have become, they'll certainly take that alternative.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.