Most major-league rehabilitation assignments are cut and dried.
The injured player comes to the minor leagues, plays some games, then returns to the majors when he is deemed healthy.
But the rehab assignment of pitcher Brad Thomas has been anything but typical.
Thomas went on Detroit's disabled list May 11 with inflammation in his left elbow. He began a rehab assignment with the Mud Hens on June 14 and pitched in six games for the Hens.
Then things got crazy.
Thomas experienced soreness while warming up for an appearance in Columbus. He went back to Detroit to have the elbow examined, rejoined the Hens for several other rehab appearances, then returned to the Tigers.
In a surprise move, the Tigers designated Thomas for assignment on Wednesday, then sent him to the Mud Hens on Saturday when he cleared waivers. The Mud Hens have placed him on the temporary inactive list.
"I'm in a situation where I'm dealing with soreness in my elbow, even when I was going out to pitch," Thomas explained. "I'm at a point where I can't deal with that anymore just to go out there and pitch.
"I was fighting through that to go up to Detroit, and I just can't go through that pain. I need it fixed."
Thomas said he will see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to determine his next course of action.
"When Dr. Andrews looked at the MRI, he asked, 'How is this guy even throwing?' " Thomas said. "But I wanted to get back and help my mates up there [in Detroit].
"When I talked to the Tigers about this a month ago, I said it would take 4 to 6 weeks to come back for me to get back if [the doctors] went in and cleaned that up. I just need to get this fixed."
Thomas had a 9.00 ERA in 12 appearances with Detroit, thanks in large part to seven runs he gave up in 3⅔ innings against Seattle. The 33-year-old lefty from Sydney, Australia, who signed with the Tigers for $800,000 this season, knows he needs to perform to earn a contract for next year.
"I have a lot to prove," Thomas admitted. "If I wouldn't have seen Seattle this year, I would have been all right.
"But I need to prove to people that I can get a job done. For seven years, my value has been that I can pitch every day. When I can't do that, that's not fun at all."
But the uncertain contract status is only part of the reason Thomas said he is having trouble sleeping while dealing with the injury.
"This has been driving me crazy," he said. "It's been seven years since I've watched a baseball game and haven't had to make sure I'm ready to pitch in the game.
"To go through what I have to go through to get ready to pitch in a game, it's just not fun."