DETROIT -- Now, the road back to the bullpen begins for Joel Zumaya.
After a follow-up exam with Dr. Charles Melone Monday in New York, Zumaya was cleared to begin throwing. He'll start playing catch next week after the All-Star break, according to the team's head athletic trainer, Kevin Rand. How he progresses from there will be a matter of how his surgically repaired finger responds.
"Obviously, you're going to be cautious anyway, because it's a major injury to one of your best players," Rand said Tuesday. "But also, this is kind of uncharted waters for a lot of people. This isn't one of your more common injuries."
The track record for a ruptured tendon near the top of the finger isn't long, and it generally involves what Adam Eaton went through when he suffered a similar injury with the Rangers a couple of years ago.
Zumaya could miss around three months, or he could miss a little more, possibly into September by what he told reporters over the weekend. The factors determining that will be the same ones that determine the recovery from as common an injury as tendinitis.
"It still boils down to the same thing," Rand said. "You have to take him through the throwing program, just to make sure he's OK with it. He has to continue to increase his grip strength, so he's still working all the therapy there. And then, once you get him going, then you have to build up his arm strength and take him through a mound progression. How long that takes just depends on how he handles it."
Zumaya has been doing exercises to improve his grip for some time now along with his overall conditioning. The latter will be important, Rand said, so that he has the stamina to pitch when his finger is ready for it.
Once he starts pitching again, however, it shouldn't take very long to stretch him as a reliever compared to what starters such as Kenny Rogers went through to get back.
"It's a feel, and we're going to have to get the feel for it," Rand said. "I know he's done a tremendous job. He's worked very, very hard to be in the position that he's in right now. It's a question of continuing to progress."
Pudge 2K: When Ivan Rodriguez took his usual place behind the plate Tuesday night, he reached an unusual milestone. He became the fourth player in Major League history to catch 2,000 games, joining Carlton Fisk, Bob Boone and Gary Carter.
Barring injuries, Rodriguez has a chance to pass Carter for third on the all-time list by season's end. The former Expos and Mets backstop has 2,065 games caught. After that, Boone (2,225 games) and Fisk (2,226) would likely be a couple years away.
More injury updates: Lefty Tim Byrdak is scheduled to play catch on Wednesday for the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list over last week with left elbow tendinitis. The pain was centered in one particular muscle in his forearm, and it quickly eased with rest, therapy and a change of medication.
Once he plays catch, he could begin throwing off a mound by the end of the week. Both Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie have their All-Star breaks next week at the same time as the big leagues, so it's uncertain if Byrdak would be sent out for a brief rehab stint before he's eligible to come off for the start of the second half.
Fernando Rodney also is eligible to come off the DL when the Tigers start their second half at Seattle next Thursday night, but it's not as certain he'll be ready by then. Rodney, out with tendinitis in his forearm and shoulder, said he's not expected to begin throwing again until next week.
Rodney isn't going to get impatient. He simply wants his on-and-off injuries to be off for good.
"I want to feel ready to go," he said.
June honors: Magglio Ordonez and Justin Verlander were named the Tigers player and pitcher of the month for June, respectively. Ordonez hit .421 (40-for-95) with 21 runs, eight doubles and 19 RBIs in 25 games. Verlander went 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA in five June starts, including his no-hitter.
Coming up: Kenny Rogers (2-0, 0.75) tries for his third win in as many starts since coming off the disabled list when he takes the mound for the Tigers Wednesday night in the middle game of the three-game series at Comerica Park. Jake Westbrook (1-3, 6.10) will try to shake his struggles for the Indians in the 7:05 p.m. ET start.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.