DETROIT -- An already frustrating, injury-plagued season for Luke Putkonen hit a new hurdle Friday, when the Tigers long reliever underwent surgery to shave down a bone spur on his right elbow.
It's not necessarily season-ending surgery, but it's expected to sideline Putkonen for at least two more months. He'll be limited to rest and rehab work for the next 6-8 weeks before being re-evaluated.
This injury is apparently not new. Though Putkonen has been on the disabled list since April 19 with right elbow inflammation, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said an MRI exam Putkonen had last month revealed what Rand termed a posterior osteophyte on the elbow. Essentially, it's bone growth near the olecranon, the bone at the tip of the elbow.
"You can have a lot of guys that'll have those type of bony-type changes in their elbow from pitching," Rand said. "The question is, are you going to be able to get that quiet [enough] where you can go through and have no issues with it, and obviously he wasn't able to. You could see he was able to get to a certain level, but he wasn't able to get to that level that he felt he needed to have to be able to pitch."
Putkonen began playing catch again about two weeks ago, but never progressed to the point of throwing off a mound.
"Hopefully that'll take care of his issues," Rand said of the surgery.
Putkonen's injury has left the Tigers without a true long reliever for most of the season. It wasn't an issue when the Tigers were getting dominant starts in bunches from their rotation early in the season, but the absence has been noticeable in recent weeks. Manager Brad Ausmus has used several relievers to cover innings from short starts, leaving Detroit's bullpen short-handed at times.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.