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09/16/09 11:02 PM ET

Tigers' Robertson expected to start

Injuries have Leyland scrambling to fill rotation spots

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland still doesn't have an answer as to who will start Sunday at Minnesota in Jarrod Washburn's place, but he at least has an idea. Nate Robertson's bullpen session Thursday could give him the answer he wants.

"It's a funny game. Robertson was upset [at not starting] because he thought he'd miss a start and be back in," Leyland said. "Well, he's got a good chance to be back in, so we'll see. It's funny how the baseball gods work."

That sums up how the various injuries on the Tigers pitching staff have left Leyland shuffling. So does the fact that the Tigers activated right-hander Alfredo Figaro from the 15-day disabled list, even though his Minor League rehab stint ended a week and a half ago. The Tigers needed the extra arm.

Wednesday's game against the Royals was originally Robertson's spot before he struggled mightily last Friday, caused in large part by pelvic inflammation. Armando Galarraga was originally expected to start in his place Wednesday, but inflammation in his right elbow and forearm won't allow him to throw enough pitches for a starting assignment. He's available in the bullpen instead.

Add in the September return of Jeremy Bonderman, also limited to relief, and Washburn's worsening knee injury Tuesday created a potentially gaping hole for the Tigers. Robertson's healthy return could be key for the Tigers to avoid the kind of struggles that would allow the Twins to creep further into this American League Central race.

Robertson had to rest for three days before working out on a limited basis Monday. He said he felt fine running and playing catch without spikes, and he seemed pretty confident he would be able to throw.

"As soon as we found out that it wasn't a sports hernia and it wasn't a groin pull, I was pretty comfortable with coming back, that I wouldn't worry about missing the rest of the year," Robertson said Tuesday. "Those were the two red flags that we cleared up with the MRI."

Of course, when he said that Tuesday night after Detroit's 11-1 loss, he thought he was throwing to get ready for a bullpen assignment.

"Unless I hear otherwise," Robertson said.

There was no news Wednesday on Washburn, whom Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand pulled from Tuesday's start after a four-run opening inning in which he was clearly hobbling around. Washburn and the team medical staff are trying to find something that will reduce the swelling and pain in the knee, which he pitched through for much of the year but now is struggling to deal with.

The injuries have left Leyland slotting around pitchers to fill spots, but he emphasized that it isn't an excuse for struggling down the stretch.

"Everybody's got their problems," Leyland said. "I mean, the Twins just lost [Justin] Morneau for the season, [Joe] Crede for the season. There's no excuses. I mean, everybody's got their issues. We're not the only team trying to figure a couple things out. I mean, there's absolutely no excuse stuff."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.