Pelfrey day to day with mild Grade 1 lower back strain

Right-hander has second most starts, innings pitched behind Verlander

Pelfrey day to day with mild Grade 1 lower back strain

DETROIT -- On the day the Tigers stuck with their starting rotation at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they received some good news about one of their starters. Mike Pelfrey, who left Sunday's game against the Astros with back stiffness, was diagnosed with a mild Grade 1 lower back strain after undergoing an MRI exam. Pelfrey is considered day-to-day.

With Monday's off-day, plus Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris potentially returning from the disabled list this week, the Tigers have the flexibility to skip Pelfrey for a turn and buy him some more time for his back to recover.

Pelfrey's back tightened up before Sunday's start, manager Brad Ausmus said, but he was able to loosen it up enough to make his scheduled start. He retired eight in a row after a double to lead off the game, then stranded the bases loaded in the third inning, but he started to feel it again.

"When he came in from the fifth, he mentioned to me his back had tightened up," Ausmus said. "We knew about it before the game -- he was able to get loose enough to start the game and pitch five shutout innings -- but he was done because of the back at that point."

It's the first time this season the back has been an issue for Pelfrey, who has veered between great outings and subpar ones for the last month and a half after struggling at the start of the season. He has 21 starts and one relief appearance this season, and he has the second most starts on the team behind Justin Verlander, as well as the second most innings pitched. Pelfrey is 4-9 with a 4.76 ERA on the year.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.