Tigers still unclear how rotation will shake out

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Matt Boyd

Detroit – There still isn’t a lot of clarity regarding the Tigers’ pitching plans for next week.

All manager Brad Ausmus said for certain was that Anibal Sanchez would start Tuesday and Michael Fulmer Wednesday against the White Sox.

There has been no decision about who would start Thursday and Ausmus wouldn’t even talk about his options, except to say it would not be Justin Verlander.

“I want Verlander to get an extra day (of rest),” said Ausmus, and that is possible because of the off-day Monday. “But right now we are not sure who is going to start Thursday.”

Barring a trade, the options have to be Matt Boyd (Thursday would be his regular turn in the rotation) or Daniel Norris, who appears ready to come off the disabled list.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann does not appear ready just yet.

“He feels healthy but he didn’t feel sharp,” Ausmus said.

The Tigers want Zimmermann to throw a couple side sessions before determining whether he needs a third rehab start.

“He’s going to throw a couple of sides up here and see if he can straighten himself out mechanically,” Ausmus said. “If he can, then we will just start him here. If he feels like he needs more game time at the minor-league level, we’ll do that. We don’t know yet.”

It’s not a pitch-count issue. Zimmermann threw 78 pitches at Toledo Friday.

“He could go to 90 pitches,” Ausmus said. “But we want him feeling good, and when I say feeling good, I mean from a baseball perspective.”

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Counting Norris and Zimmermann, who are still on the DL, the Tigers have 15 pitchers – seven starters and eight relievers. Ausmus said Saturday that he expects to continue carrying 13 pitchers once everyone is active.

The presumption at this point is Verlander, Fulmer, Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey will remain in the rotation. Sanchez could be making his final start on Tuesday before going back to the bullpen – though that is not official.

The decision for the fifth spot appears to be down to Boyd and Norris. And Ausmus has said there are no plans to move either into a bullpen role. So, one of the two, most likely Boyd, will be sent back to Toledo.

Ausmus was asked if he’d have any concerns going with both Norris and Boyd – two rookies – in the back end of the rotation in a pennant chase.

“Being non-specific to any particular person, I think experience helps when you are in a pennant race,” he said. “But if those are our starters, then those are our starters.”

There are presently eight relief pitchers in the bullpen. Once Norris and Zimmermann are activated, Dustin Molleken is expected to be sent back to Toledo.

Twitter @cmccosky