Sanchez rocked again, Tigers blasted by Yanks

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — The Tigers aren’t likely to act hastily regarding right-hander Anibal Sanchez.

They have nothing to lose by giving him a full spring to work himself back to some semblance of the pitcher he was just a couple of years ago. And conversely, they have a lot to lose by cutting him — $21 million (his $16 million salary this season and a $5 million buyout for next year).

But presently, it’s not a comfortable situation for either side.

Sanchez was hit hard again in his second spring start. He gave up five runs, including long two-run home runs by Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks, in 1⅔ innings in the Tigers 11-1 loss to the Yankees Saturday.

BOX SCORE: Yankees 11, Tigers 1

“I need to continue working on everything, especially on location,” Sanchez said. “Right now, I don’t put the ball down. That’s really easy for hitters to make really good contact.”

His fastball was clocking steady at 89 mph, occasionally hitting 90 and 91. But even at the top end, there wasn’t enough separation between his fastball and secondary pitches to throw the hitters off-balance.

Typically, when healthy, you would expect his velocity to increase as he builds arm strength through the spring.

“Yes, probably going to get a couple more miles per hour,” he said. “Early in the season, get maybe another. I am used to getting stronger and stronger and stronger. Right now, I just need to work on my mechanics and being able to put the ball down, especially on both sides, on the corners.”

While Sanchez scuffled for a second start, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann took another step forward. He started and worked two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks.

“I don’t know what my velocity was (92-94), but I was just a little erratic,” he said. “I was trying to be on the corners more than the outer third and inner third. On the first pitches, I was being a little too fine. That’s really the only thing.”

He threw 37 pitches (23 fastballs), 20 for strikes.

“I feel good. I feel strong,” he said. “Just trying to be a little too perfect. But it was another time out, getting a little stronger each time. Hopefully, I won’t be as sore this time as I was last time.”

Zimmermann experienced soreness in his right lat (back) after his first start, which he said was a good soreness because it meant he was getting full arm extension again – something he was unable to do pitching through neck and shoulder pain last year.

“I was probably a little more sore than I normally am,” he said.  “Just, you know, first time out, feeling good, excited – probably a little more amped up. That stuff happens. But I feel good. It’s been a good spring so far.”

The Yankees added four runs in the fifth. The runs were charged to Francisco Rodriguez, though he was out of the game when they scored. It was Rodriguez’s spring debut and he got the first two outs before loading the bases (two walks and a single).

Cabrera staying an extra day, but geared up for WBC

He was at 23 pitches, so manager Brad Ausmus replaced him with lefty Jairo Labourt. He walked in two and gave up a two-run single.

The Tigers have allowed 52 runs in the last six games, which isn’t sitting well with Ausmus and pitching coach Rich Dubee.

“We’ve got to pitch better,” Ausmus said. “We talked to them today. I talked to them today and Dubee talked to the pitchers today. We’ve got to pitch better. They’re scoring double-digit runs — we’re not pitching well.”

The offense is feeling a trickle-down effect from all the long innings. They’ve scored just four runs in the last three games.

“We talked about it: It’s ball two, ball three, full count, walking guys — the defense is standing out there for 20 minutes every half-inning,” Ausmus said. “When they get back in the dugout they’re exhausted. They’re drained.

“So not only does poor pitching allow the other team to score runs, it hurts us offensively because guys are gassed from standing around.”

Yankees starter Michael Pineda struck out five straight to end his two-inning stint.

The Tigers scored their run in the fourth off former Tigers prospect Chad Green (traded for Justin Wilson). Omar Infante’s double scored J.D. Martinez. 

Twitter: @cmccosky