Tigers starters rise to occasion in 2nd half

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Manager Brad Ausmus immediately knocked his knuckles on his wooden desk.

Not that he’s superstitious, much, but the topic was the Tigers starting pitching, which since the All-Star break has been the second best in the American League. No need to risk jinxing that.

This proficiency didn’t seem possible at a time when veteran starters Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey went on the disabled list and Anibal Sanchez was sent to the bullpen.

“They’ve done well,” Ausmus said. “The young guys have done well and (Michael) Fulmer was doing well already. They’ve begun that process of taking the reins when there was an opportunity given. 

“But we still have time to go. Just because they’ve done it so far, doesn’t mean it’s over. They’ve got to continue to do it.”

Fulmer, who started Friday night, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have been stellar since the break. Sanchez has starting to round back into his former form and Justin Verlander has been among the best pitchers in baseball since June. 

The result: The Tigers have had one blow-up start (eight runs in four innings by Sanchez) in the 27 games since the break. That does not include one start by Zimmermann and four by Pelfrey.

How’s this for solid starting pitching: Since the break, Verlander is 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA, Boyd 4-0, 2.10, Fulmer 1-1, 2.49, Norris 0-1, 1.74 and Sanchez 1-2, 4.14.

Tigers' K-Rod: Anatomy of a game-saving out

They’ve posted 19 quality starts in that time with a 3.13 ERA — which is second best in the American League. 

Oddly, the Tigers have managed to win just three of the last 11 starts.

“Those things happen,” Ausmus said. “There will also be times when they’re not pitching well and we do win games. I don’t get caught up in that. If you have consistent good pitching, if we continue to pitch like this throughout the remainder of the season, I feel real good about our chances.”

Pelfrey getting antsy

Pelfrey, recovering from a lower back strain, threw a 25-pitch bullpen session before the game Friday. He said he felt no pain, no soreness and quite honestly, feels like he’s a lot more ready to pitch than the Tigers do. 

The plan is for him to throw another bullpen Sunday and then pitch a simulated game after that before making at least two rehab starts.

“I just do what I’m told, man,” Pelfrey said. “I don’t think I need all that, but I’m doing what I’m told.”

Ausmus understands Pelfrey’s anxiety, but the club isn't going to risk re-injury with just a month and a half left in the season.

“As it gets closer he will have more say in it,” Ausmus said. “When we feel he’s gotten off the mound and faced some hitters, we’ll probably listen to him more. Right now, we have to get through these preliminary stages.”

The same goes for Zimmermann, who is scheduled to throw a sim game on Sunday. He, too, will have to make multiple rehab starts before he’s cleared to return.

Romine logic

Andrew Romine is apparently a menace at the plate with the bases loaded.

He drew a game-winning bases-loaded walk with two outs Thursday against Brad Ziegler. It was the fourth bases-loaded walk of his career. In fact, in 27 plate appearances with the bases loaded, Romine is hitting .273 with six hits, four walks and 14 RBIs.

“I know my numbers were good in the past,” Romine said. “I’m like oh-for with five RBIs with the bases loaded (this year). It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.

“I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why they’re having trouble throwing strikes.”

Maybin update

Center fielder Cameron Maybin (sprained thumb) took 30 swings off a batting tee on Thursday and was expected to so the same Friday. 

Ausmus said, depending on how Maybin feels, he could start taking live batting practice as early as Saturday. 

“The best case scenario would be, if he continues to progress, maybe we get him back when we get back from Minnesota (Friday),” Ausmus said. “I don’t know if he needs a rehab stint. We would have to talk about it. If he thought he needed it, then he would. 

“Basically, Cam is going to determine when Cam can take full BP or play in a sim game.”

Around the horn

Ausmus reiterated Friday that Fulmer’s next start will be pushed back “several days” after Friday. With an off-day scheduled Monday, the Tigers will move Fulmer back a few slots in the rotation to try and ration his innings.

Twitter @cmccosky