"We're hopeful it's not a long-term thing," said Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. "But we'll know in the next couple days."
The 41-year-old Rogers has been battling the flu for the past several days. After recovering from that, however, his arm wasn't feeling well. Rogers told teammates that his arm was feeling heavy.
"His arm was feeling like a dead-arm period," closer Todd Jones said, "but it was more intense than he had felt before."
As infrequent as injuries have been for the Tigers, they're downright rare for Rogers. He hasn't missed a turn in the rotation since serving out his league-imposed suspension with the Rangers two years ago for his confrontation with a Dallas-area cameraman. He hasn't been on the disabled list since his 2001 season ended early with a circulation problem in his shoulder.
The move to the DL was made retroactive to March 25, the day after Rogers' last outing. He threw six scoreless innings last Saturday against the Braves, lowering his spring ERA to 2.05. He allowed two runs in 16 innings over his past three outings, so fatigue wasn't evident in his performance.
According to Dombrowski, Rogers hoped that he could work through the injury without having to make a move. With just one off-day in the first two weeks of the season, however, simply skipping Rogers' spot in the rotation wasn't possible, even if he serves the minimum time on the DL. By making the move retroactive, the Tigers can activate Rogers as soon as April 9, which would cost him one start.
That start will go to Chad Durbin, who won the battle for the final spot in the bullpen earlier this week.
Rogers was scheduled to start the second game of the season on Wednesday afternoon against the Blue Jays. Nate Robertson will move up to start that game, and Justin Verlander will still start on Thursday afternoon. Mike Maroth will move up a day to start Friday's series opener at Kansas City, followed by Durbin.
Leyland has said often that in spot situations, he would rather call up a pitcher from the Minors to start instead of moving someone in from the bullpen and risk wearing out his relievers. This case was different, he said, because the season hasn't started and Durbin has been stretched out as a starter.
"We really only talked about two options, basically," Leyland said. "Those were [Andrew] Miller or Durbin. We decided to stay on our course with that. We checked with the Minor League people. Miller's throwing good. He's also working on some things, so we think that we want him to get some starts there under his belt. Durbin had a great year in Triple-A last year."
To fill Rogers' roster spot, the Tigers brought left-handed reliever Bobby Seay back to camp. The non-roster invitee had been assigned to Minor League camp on Monday, but his contract will be purchased before Sunday's roster deadline. Seay enjoyed a solid spring, allowing one run in 8 2/3 innings before giving up two runs in an inning last Sunday against the Yankees. He'll open the season in the bullpen for the second straight year and fill more of a specialist role than a long slot.
"We've got the extra left-hander now," Leyland said. "The reason that worked out is, we feel now with three right-handers starting instead of three left-handers, we're going to see more left-handed hitters. So the need for a second left-hander could possibly be more than it was before."
Though veterans like Jones, Maroth and Robertson seemed to know what Rogers was feeling, other teammates were caught by surprise. In many ways, Rogers was the spirit of their team last year. He not only tied for the team lead with 17 wins but served as a mentor for many of the younger pitchers.
How they move on as a team depends a lot on how long he's out.
"That's just another reminder people can't take anything for granted just because of what we did last year," Jones said. "This is the perfect example of that. We'll find a way to get over it. It's just tough from a personal standpoint because he's a good guy."
Just as with injuries last year to Maroth, Dmitri Young and Placido Polanco, Leyland doesn't want to emphasize the effect on the team. To him, the team should be able to rebound from anything that challenges it.
"I think it's a real good team," Leyland said, "with a lot of good brainpower, a lot of sense of what goes on and what they're supposed to do. I really think these guys are ready to go. They're not going to use excuses. They'll be into it. ...
"I want [them] ready to play. And they will be."