Tigers' Sanchez opts for cautious road to recovery

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Kansas City, Mo. — This isn’t Anibal Sanchez’s first rodeo. He is a veteran of the rehabilitation process — both from elbow and shoulder surgeries — and he knows you are better served listening to your body and not your heart.

Anibal Sanchez has been on the DL since Aug. 19.

Right now, Sanchez’s heart is telling him to hurry up. He needs to get back on the mound for a start or two and try to salvage something from this forgettable season. His body, though, is preaching patience.

“The goal is to be healthy,” Sanchez said. “Right now we do everything to be back before the season is over. But, both sides (him and the Tigers medical staff), we are on the same page and we are going slow. The idea is to be healthy.”

Sanchez, who went on the disabled list Aug. 19 with a rotator cuff strain, began throwing on Tuesday and has thrown for three straight days. He long-tossed from 90 feet before the game Thursday and did exhausting cardio work in 93-degree heat.

“Yeah, pain free,” he said. “But I think right now, just go slow. We don't try to rush anything. Right now, just build the arm the right way. I throw every day. Today I throw from 90 feet. Everything was normal.

“Tomorrow, depending how I feel at 90 feet, maybe move back to 120. After that, every day we see what's going to happen."

He’s not throwing hard and he’s still a ways away from throwing off a mound or throwing a full bullpen session.

Asked about the level of intensity in his throws, he said, “Not much. Just enough for the (full arm) extension. Enough to make the throw and to make the throw without pain. I don't want to force it. I'm not strong yet, muscle-wise. Every day is different.

“Just step by step — baby steps."

It’s been an odd and disappointing season for Sanchez. Two years removed from posting the lowest ERA in the American League, he’s 10-10 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.280 WHIP. Most disconcerting, he’s given up a career-high 29 home runs.

The chance to end the season on a high note, even if it’s one or two starts, is certainly a motivating force for Sanchez.

"A lot,” he said on what it would mean to him to get back before the end of the year. “Especially because I don't have a really good season, personally. If I am able to come back, throw a couple of starts and feel comfortable for next year, that's really good.

“But, it depends on how everything is with my arm."

The Tigers have $33.6 million reasons to proceed with extreme caution and prudence. Sanchez is on the books for $16.8 million in 2016 and 2017. As things stand now, he will go into next season as the team’s No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.

Everything they do with Sanchez right now is designed to ensure he’s of sound mind and body by spring training.

“We’ll play it by ear,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s a ways away. He hasn’t even thrown off a mound yet.”