Anibal Sanchez’s return to the Tigers’ rotation was short-lived.
After one start, the veteran right-hander will return to the bullpen, manager Brad Ausmus said before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Miami Marlins at Comerica Park.
“We’re trying to do what we think is best to help the team win baseball games,” Ausmus said.
Sanchez struggled at the beginning of Saturday’s start against the Indians, allowing two solo home runs in the first inning, then one run each in the second and third, but settled down in his final two innings, retiring the last seven batters he faced.
Sanchez, who has a 6.71 ERA in 12 starts, was removed from the rotation June 1. In six relief appearances this month, Sanchez allowed two runs and nine hits in 92/3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
With Sanchez headed back to long relief, veteran right-hander Mike Pelfrey and rookie left-hander Daniel Norris will round out the back of the rotation. Pelfrey took a 5.19 ERA in 14 starts into Tuesday’s start. Norris allowed three runs in five innings against the Mariners in his season debut Thursday.
“It is different coming out of the ’pen,” Ausmus said. “When you’re starting, you’re kind of preparing yourself mentally to go a long distance and you’re pacing yourself to some degree. (In relief), you’re basically pitching until they tell you you’re not pitching anymore. Throw as hard as you can until you’re done.”
Ausmus said of Sanchez’s role: “It will be similar to what he did last time.”
Sanchez, 32, is in the third year of a five-year, $80 million contract signed after the 2013 season in which he led the American League with a 2.57 ERA.
Since the, Sanchez has battled numerous injuries and has seen his stuff decline from his heyday, when he was considered a frontline pitcher. His home run issues have not curbed since allowing an AL-leading 29 in 2015; this season, he has allowed 16.
It would not have been a surprise if the Tigers decided to stick with Sanchez in the rotation through the All-Star break, affording him an extended opportunity to prove his worth as a starter. But with the way Pelfrey pitched in his only relief appearance — 4.1 scoreless innings against the Indians on Friday night — the team decided to leave Pelfrey in the rotation and put Sanchez in the bullpen.
Ausmus said right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will open the four-game series against the Rays on Thursday night, followed by rookie right-hander Michael Fulmer, who will be pitching on eight days’ rest.
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