Detroit — Only a few minutes after his big-league debut had gone down nearly flawlessly Thursday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning putdown of the Twins, Tigers rookie reliever Joe Jimenez got the word he is returning to Triple A Toledo.
The Tigers summoned right-hander William Cuevas from Toledo after they found themselves out of long-relief options heading into a weekend series against the Indians.
Jordan Zimmermann was knocked out early in Thursday’s start, while supposed long-man Anibal Sanchez was then shelled in an 11-5 loss to the Twins at Comerica Park.
Cuevas, 26, pitched in three games for the Red Sox in 2016 and was signed by the Tigers as a minor-league free agent during the past offseason. He had made one start for the Mud Hens, Monday against Louisville, when he pitched six innings, allowing three hits, striking out six, and walking three.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was concise in explaining why Jimenez was out and Cuevas would join the team in Cleveland.
“Because if something happens early to Daniel Norris (Friday night’s starter),” Ausmus said, “we won’t make nine innings.”
The Tigers’ bullpen has been a long-running soap opera that became no less tangled during spring camp and through the first nine games of the regular season.
Sanchez had been at the heart of concerns, and complexities, due to his erratic spring camp and the fact the Tigers owe him a minimum of $21.8 million through 2018.
His follow-up act to Zimmermann was a Thursday disaster as Sanchez arrived with two gone in the fifth inning. The first batter he faced, Max Kepler, tore into Sanchez’s second pitch and drilled it 20 rows into the right-field seats for a three-run homer.
Sanchez’s pitching line, spanning 1 2/3 innings, was grotesque: seven hits, six runs (earned), two walks, one strikeout, two home runs, one wild pitch.
His early-season ERA sits at 10.50.
Ausmus said the Tigers had no qualms about keeping Sanchez in the bullpen as they hope to build off a relatively strong finish to Sanchez’s Grapefruit League work in Florida.
Tigers' Brad Ausmus, after Thursday's loss to the Twins, on Anibal Sanchez and Joe Jimenez. Robin Buckson, Detroit News
“He finished the spring (camp) well,” Ausmus said. “He had a rough time in Chicago and today, but it was still two outings.”
Cuevas last season pitched in three games for the Red Sox, covering five innings. He allowed five hits, struck out three — and walked six batters.
He pitched for the Tigers during spring camp and gave his bosses in Detroit reason to believe he could, at some point, help a bullpen that once again is under the gun.
“He throws strikes,” Ausmus said, focusing more on this year’s work. “He comes after you. He has a sweeping breaking ball.
“And this (the big leagues) is not a foreign environment for him.”
Jimenez’s baptism Thursday was smooth.
He got three Twins batters on a fly out to left, a pop-up to shortstop, and his first big-league strikeout, which came against Twins rookie Byron Buxton.
Jimenez’s fastball ran 94-96 mph. He also showed a slider and a change-up.
Tyler Collins had a single and has now had at least one hit in his last five games. He batted .429 in the three-game Twins series.
Miguel Cabrera, who had his first home run of 2017 when he drove a Phil Hughes fastball into the right-field seats in the first, is batting .435 (20-for-46) against Hughes in their big-league match-ups.
Anthony Gose’s conversion from outfielder to left-handed pitcher continues at the Tigers’ Lakeland, Florida, complex.
Gose pitched against minor-league hitters Wednesday and got good marks from the Tigers’ supervisors.
Ausmus said Gose’s fastball ran consistently 90-93, with a “good curve and good change.”
He said Gose had thrown strikes with all three pitches. He was hoping to learn more when he studies video the Tigers’ development staff was to forward.