BOSTON -- Luke Putkonen's rehab assignment has been halted, but he isn't rejoining the Tigers. The reliever's next destination is the office of Dr. James Andrews to have his right elbow reexamined.
The exam, the Tigers announced, is scheduled for Wednesday, a month to the day after Putkonen's initial examination by team doctors. Whether Putkonen joins the long list of Major League pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery to rebuild the ulnar colateral ligament in his right elbow should be clear immediately after that, though Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said that hasn't been discussed yet.
"Not at this point, no," Rand said.
Putkonen underwent an MRI exam on April 21 in Detroit. The results supposedly showed no structural damage, just inflammation. He spent the next couple of weeks taking anti-inflammatories and rehabbing, then began his rehab assignment 10 days ago at Class A West Michigan before making two appearances for Triple-A Toledo.
Putkonen's last rehab appearance Wednesday against Syracuse is what had people concerned. He pitched two innings, giving up three singles and a grand slam, and Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish voiced some concern afterward.
"I didn't think he had the pop on his fastball, the movement," Parrish told The Blade's John Wagner.
That's much the same description that Tigers personnel gave Friday.
"I spoke to him [Thursday], and he said there's like a clunkiness in his elbow," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's tough to get anything out of Luke, so to say he's hurting is even tougher. It's certainly concerning when Luke tells you something doesn't feel right, because he's usually pretty stoic."
Said Rand: "He doesn't really describe discomfort. It's a feeling that he can't quite get extended the way he wants and he can't seem to finish his pitches the way he wants."
Putkonen's velocity has been down in his limited work this season, from an average fastball of 95-plus mph last year to just under 93 before he went on the disabled list. One observer said his fastball registered at 90-92 mph on the radar gun at Fifth Third Field in Toledo on Wednesday.
"Velocity-wise, he really hasn't been where he had been a year ago," Ausmus said. "He hasn't been there all year this year."
Putkonen said last month he had been dealing with discomfort for a while, but he had hoped his limited work would've alleviated that.
"We did an MRI when he was hurt, which showed everything to be structurally OK," Rand said. "But obviously if you're feeling something, then you want to look at it a little deeper and see if there's something more going on that you're missing."
If Putkonen has Tommy John surgery, it would be his second. The first came 10 years ago while he was at the University of North Carolina, forcing him to redshirt as a freshman in 2005. Dr. Andrews performed that procedure, which was one reason why he's taking another look.
"Might as well have the same guy look at him," Ausmus said.