ARLINGTON -- If Al Alburquerque is going to be ready for a return to the Tigers bullpen coming out the All-Star break, he has just over two weeks left to get ready. He has yet to pitch in a rehab game, but he's getting to the point where a Minor League assignment is in sight. Alburquerque, who is recovering from offseason elbow surgery, threw a 35-pitch simulated game in the indoor cages at the Tigers' Spring Training complex on Wednesday, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Alburquerque had been scheduled for a live batting-practice session, but heavy rains in Florida from Tropical Storm Debby have forced the Tigers to alter their plans. The Tigers are planning on having Alburquerque pitch live BP shortly. He'll need at least two sessions of that before he's cleared for a rehab assignment. Considering he hasn't pitched in a game since last year's American League Championship Series, it probably won't be a token appearance or two before he's ready to be activated from the disabled list.
At this point, though, even a return shortly after the break would be a boon for the Tigers, who have had their late-inning corps pitching a heavy workload in stretches. Detroit doesn't really have a strikeout specialists for tight situations with runners on base, though Brayan Villarreal has stepped up his game in recent weeks.