Anibal Sanchez: 'It's nothing like what I feel when I had my shoulder or elbow issue before.' (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Detroit — Encouraged by how he’s been feeling, Anibal Sanchez thought he might be able to start Saturday in Chicago.
But he won’t.
The Tigers were hoping it would signal his return to the rotation, uninterrupted, for the rest of the season — if all had gone well this week.
All did not, however.
On Sanchez’s final throw of an off-day session at Comerica Park, a needle-like pain dealt him a sudden setback in his recovery from the pectoral strain that landed him on the disabled list Aug. 9.
Now it is fair to say Sanchez doesn’t know when he might start again, or even if he will before the end of the regular season.
Because when asked Tuesday if he’s concerned he might not, Sanchez replied “yes.”
“Today is back to the first day,” he said. “When I’m pain-free, I’ll start throwing again. It depends on how fast I heal.”
That’s not to say the outlook is completely bleak. Sanchez acknowledged the “good news” of having full range of motion in his right arm.
But full range with pain won’t get him anywhere.
According to manager Brad Ausmus, Sanchez’s “little bit of a setback has set his schedule back.”
For how long, though? That’s the question.
Sanchez said the pain Monday felt like what he experienced his last start Aug. 8. He went on the disabled list the next day.
If he’d been able to start Saturday, it would have been a three-week stint on the disabled list.
With that as a guideline, one might estimate another three weeks.
But it’s impossible to say the path of his recovery will be identical to what he felt the first time.
So it looks like a case of wait-and-see for Sanchez — and for the Tigers, as well.
Before the media had to leave the Tigers clubhouse, Sanchez was called into a meeting that included Ausmus, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski and trainer Kevin Rand.
But only Sanchez had commented by the time the clubhouse closed.
“It’s nothing like what I feel when I had my shoulder or elbow issue before,” Sanchez said. “This kind of pain kill me when I feel it.
“It’s something like when you got a needle inside you, and you try to move it. That’s the pain.”
Of the last pitch he threw Monday, a change-up that brought on the pain, Sanchez said, “I knew I have to stop because I can’t even move my arm.”
To lose Sanchez even for Saturday is a blow in itself, of course. He is 8-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 21 starts for the Tigers this season.
But to lose Sanchez the rest of the way would be a major setback for the Tigers going forward because of the hole in the rotation it would leave.
Granted, Sanchez hadn’t been at his best lately (2-2 with a 4.75 ERA his last five starts), but down the stretch last year he was extremely effective, going 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA his last six starts.
In any case, no pitcher welcomes the uncertainty that accompanies needle-like pains.
And no team does, either.
Around the horn
Tigers starter David Price turned 29 on Tuesday, but he spent much of Monday enjoying one of his gifts.
“My girlfriend gave me a helicopter tour of the entire Detroit area,” he said. “It was very cool. I’ve always wanted to ride in a helicopter.”
Price’s celebrity French bulldog, Astro, also enjoyed the day.
“Yeah,” Price said. “It’s my birthday and he’s still getting gifts (a Tigers jersey). That’s how it always goes.”
What did Price learn of the Detroit area that he didn’t know before being traded by the Rays?
“The water in so many of those lakes is clear,” he said. “I was kind of surprised by that. Whatever is in the bottom of those lakes, I could see. It looked refreshing.”
... If the Tigers end up acquiring Chad Qualls from the Astros, by the way, Price will be reunited with the pitcher who taught him an important pitch.
“My two-seam,” said Price. “We’d just traded for him, and I saw the action on his fastball — kind of a bowling ball that deadens bats.
“So we were out there stretching one day and I asked him how he holds the pitch. I tried it the next day when I pitched, and fell in love with it. So he gets some credit for whatever I’ve become.”