DETROIT -- Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer will miss his start Friday because of a lingering problem with his throwing shoulder, leaving Detroit without one of its top pitchers in the middle of a close division race.
Rookie Drew Smyly will start in Scherzer's place at Minnesota. The Tigers entered Thursday's game against Kansas City with a one-game lead over the Chicago White Sox atop the AL Central, but Scherzer wasn't sure if he'd be able to pitch again during the regular season.
"I want to be able to, but at the same time, when you have a recurring injury like this, you can't get back onto the mound again before you're 100 percent," Scherzer said.
Scherzer described the injury as a muscle strain.
Scherzer left his start against Oakland on Sept. 18 after two innings because of the injury. He was able to make his next start over the weekend and pitched into the sixth.
In the days following that outing, he began having difficulties.
"Your arm's sore after every start. My arm was sore after that last start," he said. "I was able to loosen it up and be able to throw my 'pen. But after that, I lost kind of the range of motion that I had gained by loosening it up. It became painful to do a couple specific range of motions."
Scherzer is 16-7 with a 3.82 ERA and 228 strikeouts. He's been one of the best pitchers in the American League down the stretch -- beginning with a May 20 start against Pittsburgh when he struck out 15, he's 14-4 with a 3.11 ERA.
Scherzer is also second in the major leagues in strikeouts in 2012 behind teammate Justin Verlander.
After leaving his start early against the Athletics, Scherzer had an MRI that revealed no structural damage. There still doesn't seem to be much long-term concern over this injury, but now Scherzer has to rest during a critical period for the Tigers.
"Back to square one again," Scherzer said. "Now I have to address it more seriously."
Smyly is 4-3 with a 4.24 ERA. He began the year in the rotation but hasn't been a primary starter since the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez from Miami in a deadline deal.