On the day the Tigers announced Kenny Rogers could miss half the season, they had another difficult surprise injury in the final days. Backup catcher Vance Wilson joined him on the DL with a sore right elbow.
The issue has been a lingering one for Wilson, who believes he first injured it on a throw against the Nationals in Viera, Fla., a week ago. The Tigers hoped Wilson was on his way to a recovery on Thursday when an MRI exam showed no structural damage. They instead saw the problem worsen.
"It just didn't get any better," Wilson said. "So they put me on some medicine, [which] kind of took care of the old tendinitis I had, but that wasn't the problem I was having. It's kind of some shooting pain up in my arm, some nerve stuff, and that hasn't gotten any better.
"I think I strained something and it continues to irritate the nerve. It's not the pain. I can deal with the pain. It's the nerve."
The irritation in the nerve, which Wilson described as a pinching sensation, is enough that Wilson can't throw with much arm strength. It also hurts to hit, which he noticed when he had three at-bats at designated hitter on Thursday against the Astros.
"I can throw it," Wilson said, "but once I have to throw it hard, I change my arm angle and then I can't throw it. My arm shuts down."
Thus, the Tigers are shutting Wilson down for now. He's not expected to undergo any more tests, but he'll receive another course of medicine.
Because Wilson played Thursday, the Tigers can't make the move retroactive. He won't be eligible to be activated until April 14.
To take Wilson's spot, the Tigers recalled Mike Rabelo from Triple-A Toledo. The top backstop prospect in the organization, Rabelo went 2-for-14 for the Tigers this spring before being optioned to Triple-A Toledo. After starting last season as a backup at Double-A Erie, he batted .277 in 62 games for the Seawolves before making the jump to the Mud Hens and batting .270 in 38 games there. He made his Major League debut for Detroit last September.
Unlike non-roster invitees Dane Sardinha and Steve Torrealba, Rabelo is already on the 40-man roster. Just as important, as Wilson pointed out, Rabelo is familiar with most of the Tigers pitchers, having worked with some of them in the Minors and others in Spring Training as well as last September.
Though dealing with Wilson's loss isn't the same challenge as going into the season without Rogers, it will still be a challenge. Manager Jim Leyland doesn't want to play Ivan Rodriguez more than he otherwise would have, though the 35-year-old might well want the extra time. Leyland said his plans won't change, and he'll give Rabelo some starts.
"He's got talent," Leyland said. "and he's wound up tighter than a clock. I think once he gets around our atmosphere and everything, I think he'll relax and I think he's got a lot of ability. I like him. He's one of those guys, just watching him, that wants to do good so bad that sometimes it works against him."
Sunday workout: As in past years, the Tigers will work out the day before their opener with a 1 p.m. ET workout at Comerica Park, where Leyland wants his players to get acclimated again. He plans to do some of the same drills he has used in Spring Training, with an emphasis on cutoffs and relays in the bigger ballpark.
"That's a factor when you get to the middle [of the field]," Leyland said. "You have to either send your infielder out [into the outfield] or hope your center fielder's got a cannon."
Leyland will not work out his team on Tuesday, giving them a chance after the opener to get settled into their homes and relax.
No meeting: One thing Leyland will not go through on Sunday -- or Monday, for that matter -- is a formal meeting. Even with the start of the season, he feels like he has talked with them enough in Spring Training that they know what they need.
"Hopefully I won't be talking to them much for the next six months," Leyland said. "I'm not a meeting manager. Like I've always said, you show me a team that has a lot of meetings, and I'll show you a [bad] team. They've got the message. They know."
That's speeding: Lost in the buzz over the loss of Rogers and re-signing of Carlos Guillen was a strong performance by Justin Verlander, who tossed five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and a fastball that registered at triple digits on the generous Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun.
Later, in likely his last spring appearance, Joel Zumaya might have sent down the radar gun for good. One of his fastballs somehow registered at a dubious mark of 107 mph, prompting a cheer from the crowd.
Coming up: The Tigers and Yankees close out their respective Spring Training schedules with a 1:05 p.m. ET game Saturday afternoon at Legends Field in Tampa. Mike Maroth is scheduled to oppose Kei Igawa.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.