DETROIT -- The Tigers opened their 2012 season without Al Alburquerque, the high-strikeout reliever whose rookie season gave Detroit's bullpen an injection of power pitching. Yet he cleared a major hurdle Wednesday that puts him on the road to a return.
Renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews examined Alburquerque's surgically repaired elbow Wednesday and cleared him to begin a throwing program. It'll be a slow progression; Alburquerque will play catch from 60 feet away every other day for the next two weeks before he's examined for the next step. But less than four months out from surgery that inserted a screw near the tip of Alburquerque's elbow, he's throwing, which is something he wasn't doing during Spring Training.
Alburquerque remains in Lakeland, Fla., where he'll do all his throwing. He spent Spring Training doing strength and conditioning work to get in shape for when he could start throwing. He's still on a timetable to return around the All-Star break.
Andrews, who operated on Alburquerque in December, performed a similar procedure on Joel Zumaya last year after the former Tigers reliever had problems with the initial surgery.