July 1st, 2013
The toughest part of Monday’s rehab assignment for Anibal Sanchez was supposed to be the weather in Florida. A line drive off his leg wasn’t a thought. Now, it’s a potential road block.
Sanchez pitched in relief for Class A Lakeland Tuesday night after the Flying Tigers restarted a suspended game from Sunday. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings, though, before a comebacker hit him on his left leg and forced him to leave.
As of late Monday night, Sanchez was supposedly feeling OK, much better than initially feared. There was no official word on his status yet, but the injury doesn’t sound serious. Team president/GM Dave Dombrowski said in an email they won’t know anything definitive until Tuesday.
Either way, it would be a surprise if Sanchez doesn’t make another rehab appearance. He was supposed to throw about 60 pitches, but ended up with less than half that.
If Sanchez can’t join the Tigers rotation next turn, that would put Jose Alvarez, who took the loss in Toronto in a wild outing that showed uncharacteristic command woes over the course of three wild innings, in line to start again Saturday in Cleveland. The Tigers don’t have an off-day before the All-Star break, so there’s no way to simply skip Alvarez for a turn.
Any lingering question about whether Alex Avila would return from the disabled list on Tuesday when he becomes eligible to be activated was answered after Monday’s game, when Jim Leyland said Avila is coming back.
Not only will Avila be activated, he’ll be in the Tigers lineup Tuesday night against Blue Jays right-hander Chien-Ming Wang. According to Leyland, he’ll resume his previous role as the Tigers’ No. 1 catcher from there.
Bryan Holaday, who backed up Pena while Avila was out, was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo to make room.
“We’re back in a situation where Alex is our catcher, Pena is our backup and that’s what our thought process was all along,” Leyland said.
It does not sound like it was simply a matter of Avila being healthy. They wanted to see him hit, and they saw enough out of his rehab assignment to encourage them.
Avila’s return was in some question after back-to-back hitless games began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo. He’s 8-for-25 since, with back-to-back two-hit games and three in his last five contests. He had two doubles and a home run in that stretch, though his last four hits were all singles.
Avila went on the DL two weeks ago with a right forearm contusion. That healed up within a week, but the Tigers weren’t going to go short a catcher that long (no, Victor Martinez doesn’t count). With the arm all right and time to use before he could return, Avila joined the Mud Hens and worked with hitting coach Leon Durham.
“He worked with Bull every day,” Leyland said. “Sometimes you saw results in a game, sometimes you didn’t, but that’s one of those things. You don’t work with somebody one day and then all of a sudden they turn into Ted Williams. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be repetitive with it, you have to stay with it, you have to believe in it.
“But they were seeing some results, and we were tickled with that, and so we’re going to get him back up here. And Pena’s done a very good job in his absence.”
If you were looking for a lineup overhaul today after the struggles in Tampa Bay, you’re likely disappointed. If you were looking for some sort of change, there’s one interesting tweak in the bottom half of the order, where Omar Infante moves up to the seventh spot. Andy Dirks is down to eighth. I’m not sure if that’s a matchups play on the part of Leyland, noting that Infante is 13-for-28 off R.A. Dickey (including 12-for-25 against him during Dickey’s knuckleballing revival), or if it’s more than that. We didn’t see the lineup before Leyland talked, so there wasn’t a chance to ask.
For what it’s worth, Infante’s numbers off Dickey are strong enough that I put my 15-game streak on the line with him in Beat the Streak.
On the Jays’ side, it’s much the same lineup as they had yesterday in Boston, except Josh Thole is catching Dickey.
Today’s game is the only matinee on the MLB docket, which makes it an easy pick as the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day. So if you’re not in Michigan or northwest Ohio and you’re looking for a way to spend the afternoon, tune in.
TIGERS (career numbers off Dickey)
- Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-3, HR, walk)
- Torii Hunter, RF (6-for-12, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (5-for-15, HR, 2 walks)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (2-for-10, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (2-for-12, 3 K’s)
- Omar Infante, 2B (13-for-28)
- Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-1, HR)
- Brayan Pena, C (1-for-1)
P: Jose Alvarez
- Jose Reyes, SS
- Jose Bautista, RF
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH
- Mark DeRosa, 1B
- Rajai Davis, LF
- Colby Rasmus, CF
- Maicer Izturis, 3B
- Josh Thole, C
- Munenori Kawasaki, 2B
P: R.A. Dickey