Washburn, out since his troublesome left knee swelled in his last start Sept. 15, will rejoin the Tigers in Detroit on Monday. He'll begin what head athletic trainer Kevin Rand called an "extensive rehab" program in hopes of getting back on the mound if the Tigers need him.
By no means are the Tigers expecting him to be back. It's going to be a long process, and if he can pitch again, Rand said it would be "deep in the playoffs," should the Tigers get that far. But Washburn has nothing to lose by trying, and even if it's merely a slim chance, the opportunity to contribute to the team that traded for him two months ago is enough for him to opt against any surgery for now to correct instability in the medial (inner) portion of the knee.
Washburn's visit last week with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum confirmed the original diagnosis from team doctors. He was presented with several options for how to treat the injury, including the rehab course that could potentially get him in pitching shape before the end of the postseason.
Of course, the Tigers first have to get to the postseason. They'll continue to rely on Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson to help them on that front. Bonine and Robertson will pitch the final two games of Detroit's upcoming four-game series against Minnesota, and Bonine would be on schedule to start in a potential one-game playoff scenario.
If the Tigers advance, and they need a fourth starter in the American League Championship Series, they'll most likely be choosing between Bonine and Robertson. Whether it comes to that depends on if the Yankees, who are all but sure to host the AL Central winner, choose the Division Series schedule with an extra day off between Games 1 and 2. If they choose the extra day off, both teams could go with three starters on normal rest. Without the extra day off, the only way to go with three starters would involve pitching someone on short rest in Game 4.
Even if Washburn gets back into pitching shape, he would probably not be ready by then.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.