August 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Tigers' woes continue as Anibal Sanchez, Joakim Soria head to DL

Joakim Soria talks to Brad Ausmus and trainer Kevin Rand before being removed from Saturday's game. (Darren Calabrese / Associated Press)

Toronto – A pair of Tigers pitchers, one starter and one reliever, hit the disabled list Sunday as Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria were lost for a minimum of two weeks.

In the case of Sanchez, a right-handed starter particularly critical to the Tigers’ 2014 playoff hopes, manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged Sanchez could be gone until “mid-September.”

Sanchez strained the major pectoral muscle in his right side during a throw to first base in Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He flew to Detroit early Saturday where a MRI later in the day confirmed the initial diagnosis of “pectoralis.”

Sanchez and Soria were placed on the 15-day DL.

Robbie Ray, a rookie left-hander who made some early 2014 starts for the Tigers, will at least temporarily replace Sanchez. He will start Wednesday’s game against the Pirates at Comerica Park.

Soria, an indispensable back-end reliever acquired in a late July trade with the Rangers, has a strained oblique muscle in his left side, which he noticed on his final pitch of the ninth inning in Saturday’s loss to the Jays.

His replacement has not been named. The Tigers anticipate calling up two relievers ahead of Monday’s series opener at Pittsburgh, and prior to Ray’s addition to the active roster Wednesday. But those relievers had not yet been decided upon ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jays at Rogers Centre.

“We semi-expected it,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Sanchez’s loss, as well as Soria’s.

Ausmus was not saying ahead of Sunday’s game how he might handle any late-inning bullpen situations in the series finale against Toronto.

“We’ll figure that out when we get there,” Ausmus said.

Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, made the Sanchez-Soria announcements during a pre-game media briefing within the Tigers clubhouse at Rogers Centre.

Dombrowski said Sanchez’s injury was “probably a best-case scenario.” The nature of Sanchez’s pectoral strain, which the Tigers and Sanchez regarded as unusual, at least left open the possibility a more serious problem might be affecting Sanchez. But more worrisome possibilities were eliminated by Saturday’s MRI.

Dombrowski and Ausmus will wait on Ray’s performance Wednesday before decreeing that Ray is Sanchez’s regular replacement. Ray, 22, has been pitching at Triple A Toledo, where abandoning his curveball and moving to a slider as his favored secondary pitch has led to better starts.

Ray has a 3.02 ERA in his last four starts. Five of the eight earned runs allowed in those four starts came in a single game.

The Tigers will likely opt for at least one right-hander in adding bullpen help ahead of Ray’s arrival Wednesday. One of the options could be Justin Miller, a right-hander who was with the Tigers earlier in 2014.

The Tigers have seen their once-fat division lead slip to 1.5 games over the second-place Royals. They are hitting .180 in their last six games, .235 since the All-Star break.

Dombrowski said he wasn’t “befuddled” by his team’s second-half problems.

“We’re not hitting right now,” he said. “We just aren’t swinging the bats.”

The Tigers were looking for a man known for long outings, David Price, to pitch deep into Sunday’s game against Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle.