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Source: Alburquerque headed to DL

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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Detroit Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque, the major league leader in strikeout rate among pitchers who have thrown at least 29 innings this season, is headed to the disabled list.

A source told FOXSports.com late Thursday that Alburquerque will be out through the All-Star break with inflammation in his right (throwing) elbow. The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but the news is disconcerting for a team that had come to rely heavily on the 25-year-old in recent weeks.

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Alburquerque, who had no big league experience before this year, had five stints on the disabled list while in the minors because of shoulder and elbow issues. He has fanned 47 batters in 29 innings this season, thanks in large part to a sharp, high-stress slider.

The Tigers’ primary focus on the trade market has been upgrading the starting rotation, but Alburquerque’s injury could compel them to intensify their search for relievers.

Detroit enters play Friday with a half-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central. Of Alburquerque, Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit News last week: “He’s been a godsend. If not for him we’d be six or seven games less than we are now.”

Alburquerque had enjoyed a recent run of dominance, with a streak of 13 scoreless appearances that lasted for more than one month. Opponents batted just .104 against him during that stretch. But it ended Wednesday night, when Alburquerque threw a season-high 42 pitches while walking three batters and allowing three hits and three earned runs in a 16-9 loss to the Mets.

Alburquerque spent last season at Class AA Tulsa in the Colorado organization but has become a vital cog in the Tigers’ bullpen. Detroit setup man Joaquin Benoit is basically a three-out pitcher, so Alburquerque frequently is asked to get crucial outs in the seventh inning.

Overall, Alburquerque is 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA. He has pitched on back-to-back days only four times this season, the most recent occasion coming June 15-16.

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