Notes: Surgery likely for Higginson

Notes: Surgery likely for Higginson

DETROIT -- Now Bobby Higginson knows what pitchers with bad elbows have to endure.

After spending more than a week with pain in his right elbow, Higginson is now expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove debris from the joint. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday and could miss up to two months.

Higginson spent the off-day Thursday visiting with team doctors, who Higginson said gave the same diagnosis as Dr. Lewis Yocum told him last week in California. The diagnosis: Higginson has accumulated bone chips in his elbow over years of playing, and they've caused swelling in his elbow to flare up.

"They've pretty much said the same thing," Higginson said, "that I might have to have someone go in there and clean it up."

Higginson said he plans to seek one more opinion from another doctor, but he's pretty much expecting to need surgery. The one consolation he's taking from the diagnosis is that it's not any worse.

"They told me the ligaments are all intact," Higginson said. "At this point in my career, you really don't want to have any type of ligament replacement surgery."

Manager Alan Trammell said the team has no timetable on when Higginson return. Higginson said doctors told him that surgery could leave him out six to eight weeks.

"It's up to me right now," said Higginson, who summarized his decision as more when to have to surgery than whether to have it at all.

Higginson became the fourth member of Detroit's Opening Day roster to land on the disabled list. Combined with closer Troy Percival and right fielder Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers have more than $20 million in payroll on the DL, not counting Fernando Vina.

In comparison to losing Percival and Ordonez, however, Higginson's injury doesn't have nearly the same effect on the club. He made the team as a reserve outfielder and has been mired in a deep slump. Though Higginson's elbow injury had a painful effect on his arm when he throwing, he said it did not affect him at the plate.

Beyond that, the fact that the Tigers replaced Higginson with left-handed reliever Doug Creek rather than another outfielder reflected Trammell's comfort with the team's position depth. Instead, the Tigers will go with four outfielders on their roster, not including Dmitri Young, and will revisit their roster makeup only if needed.

"I haven't really been using a lot of extra guys," Trammell said. "I think pitching might be a little more useful at this point."

Percival optimistic about recovery: Percival said Friday he expects to meet the lower end or actually beat the four-to-six week timetable set for his return from muscle tears in his right forearm.

Percival pointed out that he missed three weeks last June with a similar type of injury, though that was listed as right elbow inflammation.

"In my mind, I'm shooting for on the mound in three to four weeks," he said.

   Troy Percival  /   P
Born: 08/09/69
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

The remarks were Percival's first on his injury since suffering it last Saturday against the Angels. He said he felt the injury on his second pitch warming up in the bullpen as Jeremy Bonderman worked the eighth inning.

"I hurt it and I felt it," Percival said. "Looked down about 30 seconds later and it had already swollen up. ... I knew it was a tear. I just didn't know what."

As it turned out, there were two tears, with the scars to go with them. Both the pronator and flexor mass muscles were torn, though it made no difference in how long he will be out, since both tears take the same time to recovery.

Knowing he was hurt, Percival went out anyway and pitched the ninth for the save. He has no idea whether pitching that night affected how much damage he had. Still, if he had the chance, he'd do it again.

"It was painful, but it was great," he said.

Until he's ready to come back, Percival plans to stick around the ballpark and remain a part of the clubhouse, giving tips to teammates when asked. "Maybe I can't get anyone out," he said, "but if I can help someone else get someone out, that's the next best thing."

Creek winds back to Detroit: Creek felt like he made a pretty strong case to make the Tigers out of Spring Training, strong enough that he was "very disappointed" when he was sent to Triple-A Toledo to start the season. He was neither surprised nor disappointed that he was back so soon.

"I was just holding up my end of the deal," he said. "I didn't really put a timeline on it. [He was] just looking for a break. Unfortunately, we had to have some guys hurt to get a break, but you take breaks however you can get them."

Creek's performance out of the Mud Hens bullpen helped create his break. Overall, Creek allowed five runs in 16 innings at Toledo, with nine hits and nine walks allowed against 21 strikeouts. That includes a rough performance he made in a spot start last month after Andrew Good had been called up to Detroit.

"In my mind, his command has gotten a little better," Trammell said. "He had a lot of strikeouts. He's a little more under control. I don't care if it's Creek or whoever, I like to see guys throw strikes."

Trammell isn't sure yet what kind of role he'd like for Creek. In theory, Creek's arrival as a second left-hander would allow Jamie Walker to do more traditional middle-relief work of an inning or two at a time, rather than one specific hitter. Trammell, however, didn't want to get into specific roles.

"With Creek being another lefty, you like having a little more flexibility ... knowing that you have another bullet," Trammell said. "Those sixth, seventh, eighth innings, they could vary a little bit. The one constant is Ugie."

Though Ugueth Urbina pitched back-to-back two-inning performances last week against the Red Sox, Trammell said he expects to limit Urbina to an inning per outing as a closer.

Coming up: After Friday's rainout, the Tigers and Angels will play a doubleheader beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.