Recently, the Tigers announced that right handed reliever Brayan Villarreal has been shut down for the duration of the winter season due to some arm soreness while pitching in Venezuela. While it is something that could be entirely precautionary on the part of the Tigers, this is becoming a re-occurring theme for the young fireballer. Villarreal also went through a bout of arm soreness near the end of the season last year as well, but came back to pitch after a little rest.
Those who don’t want to worry are going to suggest this is much the same thing, but it’s not a track record that someone who has had Tommy John wants to build. Anytime a guy has had arm issues and he complains about pain, it’s not a good thing in my book.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to the Tigers organization. Since Villarreal has already gone through surgery, the potential is always going to be there for injury. It’s his frame and his relatively violent delivery that should caution the Tigers and fans alike even more. His frame and delivery are the big reasons that Villarreal isn’t starting any more. That, and a lack of a quality change up. Villarreal is also slider heavy, and while I don’t have statistical evidence of support at my fingertips here, I am a firm believer guys that throw a lot of sliders are in more danger of arm troubles.
The big question is how does this affect the Tigers?
Well, if he gets back on the mound and there are no issues, it obviously doesn’t affect them at all. But I have to think the Tigers are a bit concerned themselves. Precautionary or not, the fact that Villarreal has complained about arm soreness twice in the past five months isn’t something to ignore. The Tigers are going to have to put contingency plans into effect, and might pressure them to look more actively for a reliever that might still be on the market.
This isn’t just about Villarreal either. It’s about Al Alburquerque as well. Both youngsters have had arm issues, and the Tigers are counting on these guys to be 7th inning pitchers on most nights. Maybe even set up guys on occasion. If they lose them, things could get a bit scary in that bullpen in a hurry, especially because the Tigers are counting on a rookie in Bruce Rondon to be in that mix as well.
I think Luis Marte just became pretty important.