No timetable for starter's return after yielding five runs in two-plus innings
By Jordan Horrobin
DETROIT -- When Francisco Liriano's command escaped him, the Blue Jays opted not to take any chances and removed him from Saturday's 11-1 loss to the Tigers after two-plus innings. The team later announced he had exited due to neck tightness.
"You could tell it started to affect him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We've seen bouts of wildness occasionally, but then he just really lost it. Hopefully it's just one of those things, [like] he slept wrong or something."
Liriano was sent to the team hotel before the end of the game, and he was unavailable to the media for comment. The Blue Jays announced no timetable for his return. Gibbons simply said, "We'll have a little better idea [Sunday] or next couple days, I would think."
Liriano worked a nine-pitch first inning, yielding a solo homer to Nicholas Castellanos, before running into difficulty in the second when a two-out rally resulted in a run. Then in the third, he walked three straight on 15 pitches to load the bases for J.D. Martinez, prompting catcher Russell Martin to visit him at the mound.
Two pitches later, Liriano spun off his lead foot on his delivery and looked out of sorts. Martin took two steps before deciding not to throw the ball back, and instead, he motioned to the dugout. Gibbons and trainer George Poulis came out to replace Liriano with Mike Bolsinger.
"He didn't look comfortable on the mound," Martin said. "He looked like he was pulling off a little bit, kind of falling off toward the third-base side. And he does it every once in a while, but not as consistent as he was doing it today. I've seen him battle through some things, but he definitely looked like he wasn't 100 percent comfortable."
Liriano threw 17 pitches (two strikes) in the third without recording an out. All three of his walks came around to score on Bolsinger, causing Liriano to finish with three hits and five runs, as well as four walks and two strikeouts. His 52 pitches were his fewest in a game since his first start of the season. Saturday's outing was his shortest since he went two-plus innings on May 10 against Cleveland, allowing seven earned runs in a no-decision.
Velocity was no issue for Liriano, who sat at his normal 92-93 mph fastball range, according to Statcast™. But his command, which isn't his strong suit anyway with 4.6 walks per nine innings, suggested he was compensating mechanically for some sort of discomfort.
Martin said he didn't notice anything troubling from his starting pitcher early on, adding that body language from pitchers is often tough to decipher. Liriano may have been erring on the side of caution, considering he had a stint on the disabled list in May for left shoulder inflammation.
"He's a warrior out there, so he tries to battle through things," Martin said. "You don't want to be too aggressive, especially when you're not feeling right. So I think he did the right thing. Hopefully it's nothing too serious."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.