Neck pain may force Liriano to miss next start

Neck pain may force Liriano to miss next start

DETROIT -- During his pregame warmup on Saturday, Francisco Liriano could feel something was wrong.

"The more I threw, it was getting worse," he said.

Still, Liriano tried to tough it out before exiting with neck tightness in the third inning of an 11-1 loss to the Tigers. Now a Blue Jays rotation that appeared to be back intact with Aaron Sanchez's sharp start on Friday is at risk of cracking again. Liriano was scheduled to see a doctor before Sunday's game, but the severity of his injury is still unknown.

"Just feels really sore and tight," said Liriano, who shifted his shoulders to face media members because he couldn't turn his head to the right. "I have no idea what it is. Just wait for the doctor to see what's going on."

To compensate for the stiffness that grew with every pitch, Liriano resorted to spinning off his right foot, his plant foot, as he delivered pitches. So instead of allowing his neck to turn on its own as he followed through to the plate, his whole body swung to the right.

It wasn't an effective coping mechanism, as he racked up 15 balls in 17 pitches (including three walks) to start the third before he was removed.

"I had to spin to avoid the pain," he said.

Liriano tried to sleep Saturday night, to no avail. He said he's had neck pain before, but not like this, where the pain shot down his right shoulder and upper back and gave him headaches.

He also clarified that his current pain is unrelated to the left shoulder inflammation that caused him to miss a few starts in May, since that injury didn't have any effect on his right side. Liriano said he isn't thinking about his next start, tentatively scheduled for Thursday in Boston, just yet.

"A couple more days," Liriano said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow and just go from there."

Worth noting

• Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Saturday night that if Sunday's game were to unravel quickly on starter Marco Estrada, reliever Lucas Harrell would likely be handed the lengthy middle relief role. Harrell is one of six relievers who has seen action in the weekend series already, but having made 71 career starts, he has the ability to be stretched out.

• After outfielder Michael Saunders hit a career-high 24 home runs for the Blue Jays last season, Toronto probably hoped he'd be ready for similar success when the team signed him to a Minor League contract at the end of June. Instead, he's still toiling in Triple-A Buffalo, batting 6-for-46 (.130) with one RBI in 12 games.

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit and covered the Blue Jays on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.