Pelfrey and Zimmermann set to return, rotation again in flux

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Mike Pelfrey

Kansas City, Mo. – It’s decision time again for the Tigers regarding the starting rotation.

Most likely, right-hander Mike Pelfrey has completed his rehab assignment. He threw 60 pitches with Toledo Saturday night.

“He threw well,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He gave up nine hits but four of them were infield hits, didn’t get to the dirt. He had good velocity and he looked healthy.”

The Tigers could try to find Pelfrey another rehab start – possibly for Low-A West Michigan – but most likely he will be activated early this week.

“We have to figure it out if we want to find another start for him or activate him,” Ausmus said. “He probably wouldn’t be ready to start if we activated him now, just from an innings standpoint.”

But starting him may not be the plan.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will make his final rehab start for Toledo on Monday, the final day of the Triple-A season. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Tigers’ rotation on Saturday.

It seems unlikely the Tigers want to remove two current starters from the rotation to make room for Zimmermann and Pelfrey. It seems probable that Pelfrey goes to the bullpen.

The Tigers have not yet decided who will be moved out for Zimmermann.

Anibal Sanchez will start Wednesday against Chicago. Left-hander Matt Boyd is expected to be recalled from Toledo to start on Tuesday. Left-hander Daniel Norris pitched the finale here against the Royals.

One of those three will most likely be the odd-man out.

“It’s still in flux,” Ausmus said.

There is another factor involved here. The Tigers are still planning on giving rookie Michael Fulmer extra days between starts to limit his innings. He is at 152 innings right now (including his Triple-A starts) and could possibly make four more starts.

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“We are still going to use the schedule to protect him,” Ausmus said.

The Tigers have two more off-days on the schedule – Thursday and Sept. 19. They also have two critical series left with Cleveland. Certainly, the Tigers will make every effort to tailor the rotation to have Fulmer available to pitch in those series.

“We kind of have it mapped out for the next couple weeks,” said Ausmus, who would not divulge the plan. “But it may still depend on how he pitches. We could spot-start someone for him. We have extra starters now. We’re going to just wait and see.”

Both Pelfrey and Buck Farmer could be used in spot-start situations. As could whichever starter is moved out to make room for Zimmermann.

Twitter @cmccosky