Detroit – The Tigers won two ballgames against the Cubs in Chicago, but it cost them two-fifths of their starting rotation.
On Thursday, both left-handed starter Daniel Norris (oblique strain) and right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez (rotator cuff strain) were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
To partially offset those losses, the Tigers have acquired veteran left-hander Randy Wolf from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. He hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2014, but he was 9-2 at Triple-A Buffalo with a 2.58 ERA and 1.282 WHIP.
The 15-year veteran will start for the Tigers Saturday, on his 39th birthday, against the Rangers.
Norris going on the DL was expected. He had to come out of the game in the fifth innings after straining his right oblique muscle.
Sanchez was a surprise. He started on Tuesday and pitched 2.1 innings before a two hour and 17 minute rain delay ended his night. But it was clear to the coaching staff that he wasn’t right.
“I didn’t know if he was getting tired or what, but his velocity had come down,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “That’s always concerning. I was not aware of any particular issue but this doesn’t shock me.”
Sanchez came to Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones Wednesday and told them he had been experiencing shoulder and elbow soreness. Before the game Thursday, after a medical review, he was placed in the 15-day disabled list with a right rotator cuff strain.
“He said he’s felt it over the past couple of months at times,” Ausmus said. “He really got concerned after his last start in Chicago because now his elbow was sore. There is no issue with the elbow, but he’s concerned that because of his shoulder, he was compensating too much with the elbow and that’s why it was sore.”
Sanchez had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2003 and he also has dealt with shoulder problems, including a torn labrum in 2007 that required surgery. He was shut down in spring training in 2014 because of shoulder soreness.
“The docs have not looked at all the film yet, this is just the initial diagnosis,” Ausmus said. “But we don’t think it’ll be anything more than a regular 15-day DL stint.”
There was always a suspicion that Sanchez’s recent struggles might be health related.
A career-worst 29 home runs allowed, a 4.99 ERA and .252 opponents’ batting average – he didn’t look anything like himself. But when asked, he always said physically he felt fine.
“Thank God I am healthy and I am able to keep working,” he said repeatedly after starts.
But, with the velocity coming down over the past few starts and the pain increasing in the shoulder and elbow, Sanchez decided he couldn’t fight through it.
The sudden loss of the two starters certainly put the Tigers in a bind.
“We just have to keep moving forward,” Ausmus said. “We can’t cry over spilled milk.”
Alfredo Simon started Thursday and Justin Verlander will start Friday against the Rangers. Wolf will start Saturday and rookie Matt Boyd, who pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief Wednesday, will go Sunday.
The Tigers will need another starter for Monday.
Ausmus ruled out left-hander Kyle Lobstein, who still needs a couple more rehab starts before he’s able to be cleared from a season-long shoulder injury. He said Michael Fulmer, acquired from the Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade and is pitching at Double-A Eria, has been discussed but seems unlikely to be recalled.
Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan are two internal options.
“We’ve talked about a number of people,” Ausmus said. “We’re not locked into anything right now. We will have to decide something in the next 10 hours.”
Wolf spent 15 of his 16 Major League seasons in the National League, with his best years while he was with the Phillies. He is 133-120 with a 4.21 ERA and 1,786 strikeouts. His last full season was 2012. He had his second Tommy John surgery before the 2013 season.