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 Alburquerque undergoes right elbow surgery

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PostSubject: Alburquerque undergoes right elbow surgery   Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:55 am

Alburquerque undergoes right elbow surgery
Procedure to repair fracture could sideline reliever until July
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com | 12/16/11 2:40 PM EST

Al Alburquerque turned in an impressive rookie showing out of the Tigers' bullpen this past season, but his year was also marred by a right elbow issue. Detroit now has some clarity as to what ailed the hard-throwing reliever.

On Friday, the Tigers revealed that Alburquerque underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his throwing elbow this week. As a result, Detroit expects to be without the young pitcher until at least the All-Star break of the 2012 season.

Alburquerque spent time on the disabled list with elbow inflammation last summer.

"There is no question he pitched well for us last season," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski wrote in an e-mail to MLB.com. "But he also missed quite a bit of time due soreness in his elbow. So we are happy that they found the problem and that it will be fixed, and it is anticipated he will return to 100 percent."

The procedure, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., involved a screw being inserted into his olecranon -- one of the bones in the joint -- to stabilize a non-displaced stress fracture in the elbow.

The Tigers said that Alburquerque will not throw for 12 weeks, before beginning a throwing progression program during the latter part of Spring Training.

Armed with a high-90s fastball and a fierce slider, the rookie burst onto the scene this year for Detroit, appearing in 41 games with a 6-1 record and 1.87 ERA. He led all American League relievers with a .142 batting average against, 4.36 hits per nine innings and 13.92 strikeouts per nine innings.

He made only four appearances in August after being hit in the head by a line drive prior to an Aug. 12 game against the Orioles, and he was placed on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion. He appeared in four postseason games for the Tigers, allowing three earned runs in two innings of work.

Losing Alburquerque is undoubtedly a blow to Detroit's bullpen, but the club bought itself some protection in the recent signing of veteran reliever Octovio Dotel. With Dotel in the fold on a one-year contract valued at $3.5 million, and All-Star closer Jose Valverde occupying the ninth inning, the Tigers are comfortable with their current depth.

"With the recent addition of Octavio Dotel," Dombrowski said, "our bullpen has quite a bit of depth. So we anticipate our 'pen pitching well and then it being bolstered with [Alburquerque's] return."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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