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Tigers' Anibal Sanchez believes he's fixed flaw

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez waits while manager Brad Ausmus makes his way to the mound for a pitching change in the fourth inning of his start last week against the White Sox.

Detroit — Anibal Sanchez vowed to keep his head up, to keep working and figure out what has caused him to be hit harder in his last two starts than he'd ever been hit in consecutive starts in his career.

And he did just that. He and pitching coach Jeff Jones believe they have worked out some mechanical issues in two bullpen sessions.

"They've been pretty good," Sanchez said. "Yeah, everything is fixed. But let's see what's going to happen tomorrow."

Sanchez, who starts the series finale against the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, gave up nine hits and nine runs in 31/3 innings against the White Sox in his last outing and eight hits and five runs to the Pirates prior to that. After allowing four home runs all of last season, he gave up five in those two starts.

Jones felt like Sanchez's delivery had become too stiff. As a result, his fastball velocity was down and his off-speed and breaking pitches didn't have their usual bite.

"My back leg was a little bit off and my front leg was a little bit straight," Sanchez said. "It's just little things that happen during the season. The important thing is I am healthy and I think I am ready for tomorrow."

Manager Brad Ausmus was encouraged by Sanchez's bullpens.

"The best way to describe it is, he needs to work everything toward home plate, move everything in the direction of home plate," he said. "As opposed to moving maybe a little bit laterally."

Twelve of the 14 runs in the last two starts came in three innings.

"It hurt," he said. "Those bad innings hurt. But I just try to keep my mind strong and get ready for tomorrow. I know there is a long ways to go (in the season). It's early. I think we are at the right time to fix everything."

The key, he said, was not to over-react to two starts.

"I think we just have to keep doing what we usually do and don't do too many changes," he said. "That's when the problems come for a lot of pitchers. When we try to do too many changes from what you did before, that's when a lot of problems occur."

Rondon update

If Joe Nathan has to be sidelined for an extended period of time, the Tigers are going to have to address the issue of finding an eighth-inning setup man.

Presently, Ausmus is handling it by committee.

The answer could be Bruce Rondon, who is still on the disabled list recovering from biceps tendinitis. But the process is moving along slowly.

"He threw a bullpen the other day, 15 pitches," Ausmus said. "He threw all fastballs."

Next step?

"The bullpens will get longer and they will include off-speed pitches eventually," Ausmus said. "I can't tell you exactly what the next (session) is."

Rondon is coming off Tommy John surgery, so they will not rush the process.

Where's the gas?

Al Alburquerque's fastball last year averaged between 95 and 96 mph. His fastball this year — 91 mph.

"It seems to be down," Ausmus said. "I don't think Alby is a fan of the cold weather, but it does seem to be down a tick. But I don't know if it's an indication of anything. He doesn't seem to have any (health) issues."

The cold weather clearly affected his grip on the ball Tuesday night. He walked the two batters he faced and threw a wild pitch.

"Just one of those days," he said. "I've pitched in colder weather than that, so just one day bad. I don't (make an) excuse for the weather. One day bad, and tomorrow be ready."

Cold snap

We think he was kidding. Ian Kinsler was asked if he had any tricks to combat the cold, windy conditions.

"Just cover your whole body in baby oil?" he said. "I don't know."

The temperature was struggling to stay at 40 degrees and snow flurries fell throughout the day.

"They keep the dugouts pretty warm," Kinsler said. "They have two big heaters in there. But if you are out there for a long inning, like we were (Tuesday night), it gets a little frosty.

"It's a little tough. You just keep loose the best you can and try to keep your body temperature up. It's tough to do but it's something you have to deal with."