DETROIT — Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque is likely to be sidelined for the first half of next season after surgery on his pitching elbow.
The right-hander had a screw inserted during an operation by Dr. James Andrews. Alburquerque is expected to start a throwing progression toward the end of spring training and potentially return to game action by the All-Star break.
The Tigers said Alburquerque had the procedure Thursday.
Alburquerque was one of Detroit's most pleasant surprises in 2011, going 6-1 as a rookie with a 1.87 ERA. He struck out 67 in 43 1-3 innings, holding hitters to a .142 average with his confounding slider.
But he struggled to stay healthy, dealing with inflammation in his right arm and then an unrelated injury in August when he was hit in the head with a ball during batting practice Aug. 12 and had a concussion.
Alburquerque returned down the stretch, but he pitched only two innings in the postseason after the Tigers won the AL Central.
The Tigers bolstered their bullpen recently by adding right-hander Octavio Dotel.
Although Alburquerque stands to miss a significant amount of time, general manager Dave Dombrowski is optimistic this procedure — to stabilize a non-displaced stress fracture — will fix what's been ailing the 25-year-old pitcher's right arm.
"They feel that this should solve the problem," Dombrowski said.
Although Alburquerque's durability was obviously a concern, Dombrowski said the team wasn't aware of the extent of his arm problem until the last week or so. He said Alburquerque was sore after pitching in a game in the Dominican Republic recently.
Dotel's presence becomes even more important now. He can help fill Alburquerque's role in a bullpen anchored by Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit.