DETROIT -- Aside from the most recent injury to closer Jose Valverde, the Tigers are progressively becoming a healthy ballclub. Alex Avila is set to return to the lineup Thursday, Drew Smyly will pitch three innings for Triple-A Toledo on Thursday and now it's down to Andy Dirks and the players with long-term injuries.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said there's still not much positive news to share on Dirks, who has been sidelined since May 31 right Achilles tendinitis.
"Andy's just treatment-only right now," Rand said. "He still has some residual soreness. He's just treatment and he's still in the walk boot at this time. No changes."
Rand also had updates on relievers Al Alburquerque and Daniel Schlereth. He said that Schlereth is continuing his rehab from left shoulder tendinitis in Denver, where he's progressed to throwing from 120 feet and is closing in on throwing off a mound.
Alburquerque, who has missed the entire season after undergoing surgery on his right elbow, is throwing in Lakeland, Fla., and completed a bullpen session Wednesday, which Rand did not yet have a report on.
Valverde sidelined by wrist for a few days
DETROIT -- Jose Valverde will miss at least the next three to four days with what has been diagnosed as a sprained right wrist, but neither the closer nor the Tigers expect him to require a stint on the disabled list.
Valverde, who suffered the injury while warming up in the bullpen Tuesday night, underwent an MRI exam that showed inflammation around the flexor tendon in his wrist, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Wednesday afternoon. Valverde will wear a wrist immobilizer for the next few days before he's re-examined.
If he's pain-free at that point, he can try to throw.
"We're just going to treat him day to day and go from there," Rand said.
The Tigers medical staff is not expecting that to take long.
"We're not thinking it's a long-term situation," Rand said.
Earlier, Valverde said he still felt soreness in the wrist, but that it was a little better than it was last night.
"Last night, when I threw the last pitch, I couldn't move my fingers," Valverde said. "It hurt too bad last night. I couldn't do anything. I'm a guy who wants to compete all the time. Something simple, I'd never shut it down. But last night, I couldn't do anything. ...
"It's better today than yesterday. That's why I think it'll soon go away."
With Valverde out, manager Jim Leyland said he'll use his relievers by matchup when it comes to save situations. Phil Coke earned the save Tuesday night, but Joaquin Benoit filled in for Valverde while he was sidelined with back soreness earlier this season.
Octavio Dotel also has closing experience over his many Major League stops and stepped in to get the save after Valverde's back issues forced him out May 15 at Chicago, though he failed in a save situation a week earlier in Seattle.
Even if he's not closing, though, Dotel has the potential to be a critical piece. If Benoit's closing, or if Benoit's off, Dotel becomes the primary right-handed reliever.
"He's a big key for us right now," Leyland said.
Checking for pine tar not Leyland's style
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't criticizing Nationals manager Davey Johnson for asking the umpires to check the glove of Rays reliever Joel Peralta for pine tar Tuesday night. But Leyland said Wednesday that's just "not his style."
"It's just a situation where, in my personal opinion, some things are just better off left alone," Leyland said. "In reality, if I wanted to go to home plate tonight and check somebody's bat, you will find that the pine tar is too high. And I probably got some on my team that it's too high. That's just the way it is."
League rules state that any application of a foreign substance to a ball -- including pine tar -- is prohibited, which is why Peralta was immediately ejected from the game and his glove was confiscated and sent to the Major League Baseball offices in New York.
Leyland said Wednesday during his pregame session with the media that he's been told by players that pine tar provides minimal advantages to a pitcher.
"I've been told that pine tar does absolutely nothing as far as making the ball move and everything else," he said. "In fact, I've been told by a lot of guys that hitters are glad they use it, because they don't have to worry about getting beaned."
Asked if there would be any situation where he'd ask for an inspection of an opposing pitcher's glove, Leyland said: "If a guy's standing out there in an obvious situation, loading Vasoline on the ball or something, that's one thing. But putting a little rosin on it or pine tar to get a little bit better of a grip, I'm not going to say anything."
Bunt work part of Santiago's regular routine
DETROIT -- Ramon Santiago's sacrifice bunt attempt Tuesday night couldn't have worked out much better than if he was trying to bunt for a hit. The bunt single loaded the bases for Austin Jackson's two-run double two batters later.
It was the best and most productive bunt of the season from Santiago, who had some very productive bunts the past few seasons. He had struggled on some this year, but he's hoping this gets him on a roll.
"I just have to do it more," said Santiago, who now has two of Detroit's seven bunt hits on the season, but no sacrifices. "I just have to push myself to do it. It depends, because sometimes they play you in. I don't want to give away an out."
Santiago said he puts in bunt work during batting practice every day. The key for him, he said, is to get his bat out front. Otherwise, he said, he has trouble getting the bunt down.
Tigers top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos returned to the starting lineup for Double-A Erie on Tuesday after missing three games with a bruised hand. Castellanos left last Thursday's game as a precaution, but then didn't play in the weekend series at New Britain.
Less than three weeks after the Tigers promoted Castellanos from Class A Lakeland to Erie, they did the same with top relief prospect Bruce Rondon. The big Venezuelan right-hander with the 100-mph fastball received the call Wednesday morning after posting 15 saves and 34 strikeouts over 23 1/3 innings for the Flying Tigers.
The Tigers released outfielders Eric Patterson and Jeff Frazier from Triple-A Toledo. Patterson, signed as a Minor League free agent last winter, exercised the opt-out clause in his contract after not getting to the big leagues by mid-June. Frazier, a former Tigers Draft pick signed last month after playing in Mexico, became expendable once Jared Head returned from the disabled list.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.