Tigers' Zimmermann (UCL sprain) to IL, not OR

CHICAGO -- The Detroit Tigers placed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann on the injured list Friday, one day after the veteran right-hander left his outing in Boston because of discomfort in his elbow.

Zimmermann underwent an MRI when the team arrived in Chicago for its weekend series against the White Sox. The images showed a sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that will be treated with rest and rehabilitation, per the recommendation of Tigers team orthopedist Dr. Stephen Lemos and with Zimmermann's agreement.

"It did show that he has a sprain to the UCL ligament, so there is some damage to the ligament itself," Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said. "But in Dr. Lemos' opinion, it's not at the point where you need to pull back and do surgery."

That surgery was not immediately recommended was a positive outcome for a Tigers club that has dealt with a number of early injuries to its starting rotation. Zimmermann will be shut down from all baseball-related activity for the next five to seven days.

"I was a little concerned going into the MRI today, and it came back probably the best-case scenario,'' Zimmermann said. "Something we're going to rehab and take day-by-day and see where it goes.''

Zimmermann struggled during his start Thursday, giving up five hits and five runs over three innings against the Boston Red Sox. He told the team's medical staff that he never felt quite right during the outing.

The plan is to allow the inflammation in Zimmermann's elbow to calm down before he resumes throwing.

"This is going to be a take it as it comes [situation]," Teter said. "If he throws today, once we get to the throwing process, and he feels good, we're going to come back and throw the next day. If he comes back and says he's a little sore, then we're going to give it a day."

The most optimistic scenario would have Zimmermann returning to the active roster in three to four weeks, though no specific timetable has been established. It will strictly be a matter of how Zimmerman responds to his treatment program.

"Better news [than expected]," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's got some stuff to do, but we're happy with that and we'll see how that goes."

Zimmermann, 32, tore his UCL during his rookie season in 2009, when he was with the Washington Nationals, leading to Tommy John surgery to replace the injured ligament. He returned to the big leagues late in the 2010 season, and in 2013, he went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA for the Nationals.

The right-hander signed with Detroit as a free agent after the 2015 season. He is 0-4 to begin the 2019 campaign with a 5.93 ERA. Teter said there's no real way to know whether Zimmermann's previous injury had any bearing on his current issue.

"It's always a concern," Teter said. "You look at, historically, what the average is. There are numbers on everyone who has a first [surgery]. There are guys who far exceed that, and there are guys who underachieve those numbers, too."

Still, with the team braced for the worst, it was welcome news that Zimmermann's injury isn't a season-ender, though Teter suggested that a surgical option might be reconsidered if the rest-and-rehab plan doesn't show progress.

Gardenhire said these kinds of injuries are never welcome.

"An arm injury is never good news," Gardenhire said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.