Norris will start for Tigers Thursday, Sanchez Saturday

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Daniel Norris

Detroit — The Tigers finally decided to shed some light on their upcoming starting rotation.

But they still were playing plenty coy.

"Do the math," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said following Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park. "I'm not going to do your work for you."

Here's what Ausmus was gracious enough to divulge.

Left-handed prospect Daniel Norris will be called up to make his first start of the season for the Tigers on Thursday in the series finale against the Mariners, taking Matt Boyd's spot, at least temporarily, in the rotation, after Boyd was sent down following his last start. Anibal Sanchez, meanwhile, will return to the rotation, at least for one start, Saturday against the Cleveland indians. And Mike Pelfrey, who would've been in line to start Saturday, will instead start again Tuesday against the Miami Marlins.

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So, who's the odd man out?

It seems nobody, but rather the first noticeable attempt by the Tigers to limit, when they can, the workload of rookie phenom Michael Fulmer.

Fulmer starts Wednesday night against the Mariners, and so his next regular turn would come on Monday, but that's an off-day for the Tigers — a perfect chance to skip him, or push him back.

"You're getting warmer," Ausmus said.

General manager Al Avila was stopped in his tracks in the clubhouse Tuesday night by a throng of reporters.

"I was just trying to get to the other side of the room," he said, with a smile.

Avila then confirmed, while not getting specific, "This is part of it, yes," referring to the front office's desire to keep Fulmer's pitches and innings in check when possible.

Fulmer already has thrown 74 2/3 innings — combined between Toledo and Detroit — entering Wednesday's start, and has never thrown more than the 124 2/3 innings he worked last season. The Tigers would prefer he not go above 160 innings this season, but figure to need him late for a playoff push.

Hence, when doable, they'll find ways to get him longer breaks, whether it's via off-days, or whether it's knocking him out of the rotation for a turn here or there.

So here's how the rotation should look for the time being: Fulmer on Wednesday, Norris on Thursday, Jordan Zimmermann on Friday, Sanchez on Saturday, Justin Verlander on Sunday, Pelfrey on Tuesday, and then who knows.

Norris showed really great promise after being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays last July, but battled cancer this offseason, then started the season on the disabled list with a back injury. He'll be on five days' rest when he goes Thursday, after last pitching in Toledo on Friday.

Of that start at Triple-A on Friday, Ausmus said, "His last outing was the best of the year." Norris went seven innings, allowing no runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out eight.

Norris, a left-hander acquired in the David Price trade, has a 2.76 ERA over his last seven starts at Triple A, after having a 9.98 ERA in his first six starts. Norris' strikeouts are up and his walks are down.

Sanchez, meanwhile, has appeared in six games in relief, all this month, with a 1.86 ERA and 1.14 WHIP — including a scoreless 12th inning to earn the win in the Tigers' 8-7 triumph over the Mariners on Monday night. In 11 starts before his move to the bullpen, his ERA was 6.67.

Ausmus said Sanchez should be plenty stretched-out to make a seamless transition back to the rotation.

"I feel really good," Sanchez said late Monday night. "I feel I'm able to put the ball in any corner. I feel my speed and movement's back."=