Anibal Sanchez returns to start for Tigers on Monday
Detroit -- Anibal Sanchez walked into the home clubhouse at Comerica Park on Sunday morning, wearing a Detroit Tigers shirt and a smile on his face.
The veteran right-hander will return to the Tigers rotation, starting Monday night in the series opener in Seattle.
Sanchez made four starts for Triple-A Toledo as he tries to work his way back into form that's been missing most of the last three seasons. In those four starts, he was 0-2 with a 4.60 ERA and a WHIP of 1.40. But his last start was easily his most encouraging, allowing four hits and one run while striking out seven Wednesday in Toledo.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said his fastball has been up around 93 mph, and reports suggest his change-up has come around. There is no injury in the Tigers rotation, which until Buck Farmer's demotion after Sunday's 9-1 loss had six starters.
Bottom line, it's simply time to see what Sanchez has left.
"That's a good way of putting it," Ausmus said. "He's pitched pretty well. He accepted that assignment to go pitch in Toledo so he could take another shot at starting. So we'll see."
Sanchez, 33, wasn't going to spend the rest of the year with the Mud Hens.
Earning $16 million this season -- the last of a five-year, $80-million deal -- and due another $5 million buyout after the season, Sanchez has been a sticky situation for the Tigers, who've already eaten significant salary this year in releasing Mark Lowe and Mike Pelfrey.
Sanchez's contract looked like a steal when he first signed it, but has gotten progressively worse as his arsenal has declined.
Since the start of the 2015 season, his WHIP is 1.412, and he's allowed 68 home runs in 331.1 innings. He made the Tigers' Opening Day roster as a reliever, as he finished strong in camp, but he had a 9.00 ERA in 11 outings before humbly accepting the Mud Hens assignment.
He suffered a slight hamstring injury two starts ago, "but that's behind him," Ausmus said.
Asked if Sanchez's status in the rotation is day to day, Ausmus quipped, "We're all day to day."
Ausmus said Sanchez could get close to 100 pitches Monday, conveniently a road game that'll be played late at night back home in Detroit. That could relieve Sanchez of some stress and pressure of trying to win back Tigers fans.
Approached before Sunday's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, Sanchez politely declined to talk about his upcoming start, saying he couldn't.
"He's a veteran, he's been around a while, he's had success for a while in this game," catcher James McCann said. "He's got good stuff and hopefully it translates into success tomorrow."
After Sunday's game, a 9-1 loss, the Tigers sent struggling Buck Farmer back to Toledo to make room on the roster for Sanchez.