CLEARWATER , Fla. The wincing, waiting, wondering,and deep tissue massages are just about over for Daniel Schlereth.
Hehad never spent so much as two months on the disabled list. But its been nearly four months since the Tigers' left-handed relieverwent on the shelf with what has been termed left shoulder tendinitis by the club.
It feels like I have not played forever, Schlereth said Friday, while standing on the top step of the dugout at Bright House Field. I want to get back to Detroit. Ive missed everybody and being around the clubhouse. I miss competing.
If all goes well, Schlereth said he should be ready to return to Detroit from a rehabilitation assignment with the Lakeland Flying Tigers after pitching back-to-back, one-inning stints on Aug. 20-21.
Schlereth was asked if the injury was just tendinitis.
No, he said. Tendinitis does not last four months. They probably dont want me saying that. But when I could not reach back and throw 90 mph, I knew something else was wrong. I was in a lot of pain, and its hard to pitch with a throbbing shoulder.
I dont know what caused it. Maybe I lifted too much in the offseason. It started in spring training, and I didnt tell our trainers I was hurt. I was stupid. I got that from my dad. We just push through things. Thats dumb on both our parts. But I was hurting the team and pitching terrible.
Playing hurt is much more a part of his fathers game than it is in baseball. Mark Schlereth, now an ESPN analyst, was a two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard and won three Super Bowl rings with the Broncos and Redskins.
After running up a 10.29 ERA in six games, Schlereth came clean and said he was hurt. The Tigers placed him on the disabled list April 21, and he visited a specialist at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado.
All pitchers have some sort of tear in their labrum, Schlereth said. It was a rotator cuff or labrum problem and the doctor in Colorado talked to me about surgery. But he said the chances of coming back from that were not good.
So, we decided to go with rest and rehab. I stayed in Colorado and got treated five days a week with heat and deep tissue massages. He had to break it up and get me functional. It worked, and in June I started throwing.
Schlereth, 26, said he is throwing 92-93 mph fastballs which is a couple miles per hour off his best. But its still plenty enough to compete in the big leagues if his curve or slider is working, and if he commands his pitches.
Now, I just have to watch how much I throw, Schlereth said. And once I get into games, I have to attack the strike zone.
Phil Coke can play long toss every day and throw a ton in the bullpen. Hes wired differently. Ill have more success if I dont throw as much.
He also mentioned working on a changeup, adding that hes never been able to make the pitch work for him. The goal is keeping the right-handed hitters, who bat .269 against him, a little more off balance. Lefties hit just .213 against him.
Schlereth, a first-round pick out of the University of Arizona by the Diamondbacks in 2008, had hoped this would be the season he stuck in the majors without a trip to the minors. Instead, its been the strangest season for him.
He once was looked at as a future closer, but all he wants to do is pitch in games that matter.
My only goal is to get back to Detroit , Schlereth said. All I want to do is win; I dont give a crap about the rest of it. Getting knocked out of the playoffs last year still stings.
He looked down at the dugout steps and shook his head.
I want to win a championship, he added, and I hope thats in Detroit. We have the best group of guys in that clubhouse that you could ask for. And we have an owner (Mike Ilitch) who wants to win as bad as anyone.
When we signed Prince Fielder this year, my brother-in-law told me about it in a text. I thought it was a joke.
Schlereth was looking forward to this season after a strong finish for the 2011 Central Division champions.
He had a 1.93 ERA for the Tigers after returning from a month with Triple-A Toledo late last July.
The ball was just flying out of my hand perfectly when I came back, Schlereth said. But its always been that way for me. Im a second-half pitcher.
His careerearned run averagebefore the All-Star break is 6.30, while it is 2.89 after it.
Another statistic Schlereth cant explain is his career-long problem of pitching at home which reached new heights last year. He posted a 5.11 ERA in 2011 at Comerica Park , while dropping that a staggering amount to 1.85 on the road.
He is a road All-Star. But at Comerica, which oddly enough is a park with dimensions favoring pitchers, he doesnt cut it.
I guess I just pitch better when Im the enemy, Schlereth said. When Im on the road, I feel theyre all out to get me and respond better. Maybe Im too comfortable at home.
He laughed and added, Maybe I should stay at a Holiday Inn when were in Detroit . But my wife would think thats pretty strange.
Last year, in 49 appearances overall, he was 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA. He struck out 44 in 49 innings, but the 31 walks often were his downfall.
Schlerethwas scheduled to pitch Saturday night and again on Tuesday. He's on a pitch count with Lakeland, and has 2 13 innings of work in three games with a 3.86 ERA, one walk and three strikeouts.
The Tigers are in the hunt once again, and he longs for the opportunity to return to them.
I like to compete, Schlereth said. Thats what its all about.