Smyly gave up three runs on four hits in three innings, including a Todd Frazier two-run single in the second and a Zack Cozart home run leading off the third. That's the pitch, he said, where he first felt it.
"I had a mini-cut from my last start," Smyly said after the Tigers' 7-6 comeback victory over the Reds, "but it wasn't a blister or anything. So I had some type of stuff on it to keep it safe. It was holding all the blood in, so it was getting mushy. So every pitch, it was getting mushier and mushier, and it started going down my finger."
Impressively, Smyly retired the middle of the Reds' lineup in order after Chris Heisey's third-inning double, using offspeed pitches to try to avoid breaking it open. As soon as he got to the dugout, he went to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.
Once they went to manager Jim Leyland, he couldn't believe what he saw.
"It's the worst one I'd ever seen in my life," said Leyland, who immediately called for Luis Marte to begin warming in the bullpen.
Rand, a longtime trainer in the big leagues, said it was "right there" among the biggest he had seen.
It's the first injury in what has been a solid rookie season for the 22-year-old left-hander, who turned a non-roster invite to Spring Training into a spot in the rotation in just his second season as a pro. However, Smyly said he dealt with blisters several times in college and once last year at Class A Lakeland. Warm, humid weather, such as Sunday's conditions in Cincinnati, seem to bring it out.
Judging from past blisters, Smyly doesn't expect this one should prevent him from making his next start.
For the team, though, it's just the latest health concern on an injury-shortened roster. Right fielder Brennan Boesch was scratched from Sunday's lineup hours earlier with a right ankle sprain. Fellow Tigers starter Doug Fister is on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this year with a left side strain. Center fielder Austin Jackson just returned from the 15-day DL with an abdominal strain, but left fielder Andy Dirks is still working his way back from Achilles tendinitis.
Detroit has used 40 players so far this season. If Fister can return later this week as hoped, the Tigers won't need a callup to replace Smyly if his blister doesn't heal in time.
Smyly's next turn in the rotation would come Saturday at Comerica Park against the Rockies.