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Sanchez eager to return to rotation Saturday

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Anibal Sanchez, who had a 6.67 ERA in 11 starts before going to the bullpen, threw more curveballs on Wednesday.

Detroit – To appreciate where Anibal Sanchez is today, preparing to make his first start since May 31, go back to where he was on that brutal day in Anaheim.

He had just been torched for six runs, yielding three home runs, to the Angels. His ERA at that point was pushing 7.0.

He’d allowed 14 homers in 56.2 innings. In six starts in May, covering 33 innings, he’d allowed 38 hits and 29 runs.

“I don’t know what’s going on right now,” he said after that game. “I have to clear my mind. I have to do something to change everything…I want to get back to like it was before when the team trusted me and I trusted myself.

“I want to be competitive. Everything I threw today is not competitive.”

The next day he was pulled from the rotation and he vowed to work his back into the rotation. He’s done that. He gets the ball against the Indians Saturday. The next hurdle will be to earn an extended stay.

“I feel really good,” he said on Friday. “Everything is back.”

In six relief appearances, he was able to find a comfortable delivery, one that he can consistently repeat pitch after pitch.

There’s been more zip on his fastball and more movement and sharpness on all of his pitches.

“Physically and mechanically, that’s been the two keys to my whole program, to my game,” Sanchez said. “I prepare really good. The idea I had on every pitch was good; the result wasn’t. But this is what I worked for. I showed it in the bullpen. I did well. I am working and I’m prepared to go back into the rotation and do what I was doing in the bullpen.”

He has pitched 9.2 innings in the bullpen, allowed two runs with six strikeouts. His fastball was hitting 93-94, but more importantly, he was putting it where he wanted to. He was able to manipulate his off-speed pitches to the desired quadrant of the plate.

“I showed what I can do in the bullpen,” he said. “I am ready to do the same from the start of the game. I want to keep the same mentality, the same approach. We’re going to do a game plan and learn from watching the game (Friday) and we’ll see the results tomorrow.”

Manager Brad Ausmus said he will keep a close eye on Sanchez’s pitch count, but there is no set limit.

As for the rotation going forward, Mike Pelfrey will start Tuesday against Miami. Jordan Zimmermann, who started Friday, will get the ball on Wednesday against the Marlins.

It is likely that Sanchez would get another start in the Tampa Bay series, though Ausmus said rookie Michael Fulmer’s next start will also come at Tampa.

Defensive metrics

Tigers defensive coordinator Matt Martin kind of shook his head in disbelief.

“It’s surprising,” he said. “I don’t see it.”

The Tigers scored poorly again in recent defensive metrics published by ESPN.com. They’re were near the bottom with a minus-28 rating in defensive runs saved. The specific “problem areas” were centerfield (minus-12), right field (minus-11) and third base (minus-9).

“I don’t see it with the naked eye,” Martin said. “I know the metrics are getting better. But until they continue to improve, and I don’t know how that’s going to happen, I’m not putting a lot of stock in it.

“By the naked eye and by comparing how we were playing in 2014, especially at third base, comparing it to other third basemen in the league, I don’t see it.”

Nick Castellanos has been drawing raves – from within the organization and across baseball -- for his defensive improvement at third base. Since Cameron Maybin has come off the disabled list, center field has not been a problem defensively, though the Tigers have used Anthony Gose, Andrew Romine and Justin Upton out there while he was injured.

There have been some adventurous moments in right field, for sure, even before J.D. Martinez was injured. There are bound to be some growing pains for Steven Moya.

“In comparing that to other teams we play and seeing the plays that are made and aren’t made on a nightly basis, center field and third base have been strong positions for us,” Martin said. “If the numbers don’t bear that out, well, I will take the way they’ve played.

“As always we never arrive and we always strive to improve, but I’ll take the way we’ve been playing thus far.”

Get used to it

Ausmus reiterated Friday that he will continue to be cautious with Victor Martinez and his aging, balky knees.

“We’re going to continue to find spots to give him days off here and there,” he said. “He can still affect the game (pinch-hitting). But to keep him healthy for six months, we’re going to have to be careful.”

The goal, Ausmus said, is for Martinez to be healthy enough to play every day in August and September when the Tigers hope to be in a playoff chase.

“But even then, if he’s not 100 percent, we’ll find a spot to rest him,” Ausmus said. “He’s probably going to be an issue for him the rest of his career.”

Around the horn

…Ausmus was asked before the game about pitching prospect Joe Jimenez, who continues to dominate at Double-A Erie. “Everybody thinks the guys doing well in the minors is the answer,” he said. “There is a huge difference between Double-A and Major League hitters. I think Joe has a chance to be a good Major League pitcher. He certainly has a plus fastball. But it takes a really special fastball to be a one-pitch pitcher in the big leagues. There are only a handful of those guys. He is still developing. To rush him just because he’s had a good three months and obstruct his development would be a bad decision.”

…Andrew Romine got the start at shortstop in place of Jose Iglesias. It was a rest day for Iglesias. Also, Romine was 5 for 8 with a home run off Indians starter Danny Salazar. Iglesias was 2 for 10.

…The Tigers once again are carrying an extra pitcher on their 25-man roster. Ausmus said he expects that to continue for the next week or so because of the heavy workload being logged by the bullpen lately.

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