Eye infection forces Perry to disabled list
Righty Weinhardt recalled from Triple-A to fill bullpen opening
BALTIMORE -- The Tigers went into Spring Training looking forward to the depth of having Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry available to handle leads in the seventh inning. Now, after losing Zumaya to the disabled list for the beginning of the season, they're going to have to get through the next couple weeks without Perry, too.
While the Tigers were prepared for Zumaya to open the season on the disabled list, they were caught by surprise when they had to put Perry on the DL Thursday with an infection and inflammation in his left eye. While allergies had bothered Perry's eyes for part of Spring Training, they hadn't affected his ability to pitch.
His issues the last couple days were a completely different issue, but bad enough that he can't wear the corrective lenses he needs to pitch.
"He's got two problems," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. "He's got an infection in his left eye, and he's got inflammation of the eye itself. He's unable to put contact lenses in, and he probably won't put contacts in for the next seven days. It's got to clear up [first]."
Perry also has a corneal abrasion on the eye, Rand said.
Perry wore performance eyeglasses when he pitched at the University of Arizona, before he was drafted, but shifted to contacts once he turned pro. His astigmatism is now so strong, Rand said, that "he can't see anywhere near as well with glasses as he can with contacts."
Perry was examined Tuesday by the Orioles' team eye doctor, then by the Tigers' eye doctor this morning in Detroit.
Perry's spot in the bullpen will be taken by right-handed sinkerballer Robbie Weinhardt, who was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Toledo. Weinhardt was one of the final cuts during Spring Training, losing out to long relievers Brayan Villarreal and Enrique Gonzalez. With the Mud Hens just beginning their season Thursday night, there were no games on which to judge relievers. But of the relievers in Toledo, manager Jim Leyland said, Weinhardt had the best performance in Spring Training.
Weinhardt was in Louisville, Ky., for the Mud Hens' season opener. He caught a flight to Baltimore and arrived at Camden Yards as the Tigers were getting ready for pregame batting practice.
Perry pitched in two of the Tigers' first four games, allowing a run over two-thirds of an inning Saturday at Yankee Stadium before tossing a scoreless eighth inning Monday against the Orioles.
With Zumaya on the DL, Perry was seen as the primary candidate to help carry a lead from Detroit's starters to setup man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde. That mainly involved the seventh inning, which Leyland had hinted was a point of concern.
"I like my bullpen," Leyland said. "It's just that you do have a couple uncertainties that you don't know about. It doesn't mean you don't like it. It just means you're not really sure. You don't know yet until you get them out there. We'll find out."
Leyland had left-hander Phil Coke, a primary setup man for much of last season, available in that spot for the first four games, while the Tigers needed just four starters. With no off-day scheduled for the next two weeks, Coke is back in starter mode for his scheduled turn in the rotation Saturday against the Royals at Comerica Park.
With Perry out, the seventh inning becomes an opportunity for some who are younger and less-tested. Weinhardt would presumably be among them, as will left-handers Daniel Schlereth and Brad Thomas, and even rookie Villarreal.
"I might try Villarreal in that seventh inning," Leyland said. "You might catch lightning in a bottle."
Perry's move was made retroactive to Tuesday. He'll be eligible to return from the DL on April 20 -- the final day of the Tigers' next road trip to the West Coast. They have a series finale in Seattle that afternoon.