The I-75 shuttle is operational again, this time taking rookie starter Drew Smyly to Toledo for a planned three-inning rehab start on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Smyly threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL on June 11 with a massive blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
“At this point, I’m just trying to build a callus over the new skin,” said Smyly, who’s due to come off the DL on June 26, but didn't know the next step in his rehab until now. "I'm good to go."
Smyly is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 12 starts for the Tigers this season, but had to leave his last outing against the Cincinnati Reds on June 10 with the blister. The three-inning stint that day was his shortest MLB outing by two full innings.
The Tigers have said all along they were planning to limit the workload for Smyly, who'd only pitched eight games above Class A ball in his young pro career before this season, and had just 126 regular-season professional innings under his belt when he won the fifth starter job in spring training.
This stint on the 15-day DL altered that plan in the short term.
"I don’t know if it was a blessing in disguise. There’s no way he could’ve made it tomorrow. I looked at it today and it’s much better, but there’s a big hole there and it’s real sensitive. It’s much better, but there’s no way he could’ve pitched tomorrow," manager Jim Leyland said Friday, the day before what would have been his next scheduled start for the Tigers, had he been healthy. "To be honest, we really had our plan made around the All-Star break to watch what was going on. So, this was kind of unexpected. Obviously, he’d be pitching if he didn’t have the blister. We really had a plan in place that started around the All-Star break. It wasn’t expected, but we had a lot of that this year."