DETROIT — The Tigers’ bullpen will certainly be getting reinforcements in September but could that include a familiar name?
Right-hander Luke Putkonen is set to start an injury rehabilitation assignment today with Single-A West Michigan.
Putkonen has been on the 60-day DL since April 19 with right elbow inflammation.
"Assuming he’s healthy, he would certainly be a guy that has some experience that you would look to if he’s able to pitch," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "His bullpens have been good, he threw live batting practice a few days ago, so hopefully he continues on that trend, that upward trend. But he still would need a few outings."
Another reliever on the mend is Joakim Soria, whom Ausmus said felt good after throwing on back-to-back days Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I believe today is rest and then (Friday) starts extending out even farther over the next few days," Ausmus said. "I’m not precisely sure when he’s going to be off the mound at this point."
The bullpen actually performed well in stressful circumstances Wednesday night when starter David Price was knocked out before getting an out in the third inning.
Blaine Hardy, Phil Coke, Patrick McCoy, Jim Johnson and Al Alburquerque combined to throw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five.
"I’m hoping I don’t have to use any of them today but it certainly gives us a bit of wiggle room knowing that everyone down there can pitch today if necessary," Ausmus said, knowing Kyle Lobstein is making his first major-league start.
It’s the most scoreless innings pitched in a single game by the bullpen since May 2, 2013 at Houston, also seven scoreless innings.
Ausmus said he’s seen good signs from Johnson, who is 1-0 with a 7.20 ERA with the Tigers in five games.
"He’s done a pretty good job, really," Ausmus said. "It just seems like when he kind of stays within himself, tries to keep the ball down, he gets a lot more movement and he’s a lot more effective."
WAITING ON SATURDAY’S OTHER STARTER
The Tigers have a day-night doubleheader Saturday in Chicago, with the late game featuring Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.
The starter for the day game has still not been announced, although the Tigers were discussing that, among other matters, Thursday morning.
The decision becomes a little more challenging if the Tigers call someone up who is not currently on the 40-man roster.
"You’d have to put someone on the 60-day or remove someone from the 40-man so that makes it tougher inherently," Ausmus acknowledged.
The starting rotation has been in flux since Anibal Sanchez suffered a right pectoralis strain Aug. 8 in Toronto.
"There’s been a lot more planning this month than any other time previous in the season," Ausmus said. "And it’s changed quite a bit over the course of the month. Sanchie got hurt and then, what was it, two days later (Justin Verlander) came out of the game. We’ve kind of had to adjust on the fly quickly a number of times."
Outfielder Wynton Bernard was named the Most Valuable Player of the Midwest League and was also named to the Midwest League Postseason All-Star team.
Right-hander Buck Farmer and left-hander Kevin Ziomek also made the All-Star team.
Two other Whitecaps have won Midwest League MVP honors — Robert Fick in 1997 and Gorkys Hernandez in 2007.
Right-hander Angel Hernandez made the Florida State League Postseason All-Star team.