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Tigers shift Sanchez to bullpen

Anibal Sanchez is heading to the bullpen. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus announced Wednesday that they’re pulling the struggling starter out of their rotation and moving him to relief while they try to work him through his season-long struggles.

It’s not necessarily a permanent move, Ausmus cautioned. At the same time, it comes with no assurance that he’ll rejoin the rotation.

“He definitely could work his way back into the starting rotation,” Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon. “But right now, there’s nothing promised. If people in the rotation are pitching well, they’re going to stay there. Hopefully he can get himself right and/or become a valuable part of our bullpen.”

The shift comes after Sanchez gave up three home runs in as many innings against the Angels Tuesday night. Detroit’s comeback left Sanchez with a no-decision for three innings of six-run ball, but it didn’t delay Detroit’s decision on him.

The numbers are startling for a pitcher who led the American League in ERA in 2013. Sanchez is 3-6 with a 6.67 ERA in 11 starts this season, allowing 66 hits over 56 1/3 innings. Fourteen of those hits have been home runs, most among AL pitchers and second only to former teammate Max Scherzer for the Major League lead.

Sanchez has given up 43 homers over 213 2/3 innings since the start of last season. His adjustments to try to keep his pitches down haven’t worked, including a simpler delivery they abandoned a month ago. Now, instead of tweaking during side session between starts, he’ll be doing more actual game work.

“As opposed to pitching on Monday and then not being in a game again until Saturday, you might pitch Tuesday and Wednesday, off Thursday, pitch Friday,” Ausmus said. “So you end up working your delivery more frequently over a span of time, as opposed to all in one day and then sitting. So the repetitiveness of that on a daily basis can help.”

Realistically, it was one of the few options the Tigers had. Sanchez could decline any minor-league assignment, and he has said all season that he’s healthy, which rules out a stint on the disabled list. He’s under contract through next season on the five-year, $80 million deal he signed after the 2012 season.

Sanchez, who said after Tuesday’s loss that his pitching wasn’t competitive, took the news in stride.

“It’s a different process than I’m used to,” Sanchez said. “Now I need to work for something, and I’m ready for it. I’m healthy. That’s the important thing right now. My head’s going to be up and I do what I can control to be back in the rotation.”

Who will take Sanchez’s rotation spot isn’t yet clear. His turn would’ve come up Monday against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park, but the Tigers can move up rookie Michael Fulmer to start on his regular four days’ rest. Matt Boyd, scheduled to make another spot start Thursday against the Yankees, could stick in the rotation, or the Tigers could move Shane Greene into his old starting role when he returns from the 15-day disabled list in the coming days.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Angels

Jose Iglesias returns to the lineup as the Tigers try to shake their struggles against lefties. But aside from J.D. Martinez, there aren’t a whole lot of great numbers to go around the Tigers lineup against Hector Santiago, who outpitched Anibal Sanchez for a 2-0 win here one year and a day ago.

The Angels, meanwhile, have brought up former Tiger Jefry Marte, who gets the start at third base tonight. He’ll take his swings against ex-teammate Anibal Sanchez, whose chances arguably are improved with the night start, when the ball struggles to carry here compared to day games.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

84tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Santiago)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-16, double, triple, 3 walks, K)
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-9, double, HR, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-13, HR, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-16, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
  6. Justin Upton, LF (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF
  8. James McCann, C (0-for-4, walk, K)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-7, 3 walks, K)

P: Anibal Sanchez

halologoANGELS (career numbers against Sanchez)

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF (1-for-3)
  2. Mike Trout, CF (2-for-10, HR, 4 K’s)
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B (7-for-22, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  4. C.J. Cron, DH
  5. Jefry Marte, 3B
  6. Rafael Ortega, LF
  7. Cliff Pennington, SS (1-for-2, 2 walks, K)
  8. Carlos Perez, C
  9. Gregorio Petit, 2B

P: Hector Santiago

Cabrera 2nd, V-Mart and Castellanos 4th in All-Star balloting

While three Tigers rank among the top five at their respective position in the first update of American League All-Star balloting, none of them are leading, putting the Tigers in line for a potential second straight Midsummer Classic without a player in the starting lineup.

  • Miguel Cabrera, who used a late charge last year to beat out Eric Hosmer at first base but couldn’t take part due to injury, trails Hosmer by just over 400,000 votes at first base, setting up another race between the two. Cabrera checked in at 466,523 votes.
  • Nick Castellanos, whose hot start at the plate put him among the AL batting leaders, ranks fourth in a stacked field at third base, garnering 253,160 votes. Orioles star Manny Machado leads the spot with 630,028 votes, followed by Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson.
  • Victor Martinez, who ranks second among AL hitters with a .345 batting average, ranks fourth in voting at designated hitter with 241,208 votes. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz leads with 963,076 votes. Struggling Royals DH Kendrys Morales ranks second, with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion third.

Not among the top five at second base is Ian Kinsler, who entered Tuesday ranked 10th in the league with a .313 average and tied for second with 42 runs scored.

Memorial Day lineups: Tigers at Angels

Andrew Romine, born and raised in SoCal and a homeowner down the road, gets the start at shortstop tonight. Other than that, it’s a regular lineup for the Tigers tonight behind Justin Verlander against Jhoulys Chacin, who has never faced Detroit but has a history against several of its hitters.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Chacin)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-7, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3, K)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Justin Upton, LF (2-for-20, double, HR, 3 walks, 11 K’s)
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF (4-for-13, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Justin Verlander

angelslogoANGELS (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF (0-for-7, walk, 4 K’s)
  2. Mike Trout, CF (1-for-9, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B (8-for-19, 3 doubles, HR, 6 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. C.J. Cron, DH (2-for-6, double, K)
  5. Johnny Giovatella, 2B (4-for-10, double, 2 K’s)
  6. Rafael Ortega, LF
  7. Cliff Pennington, SS (2-for-18, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  8. Carlos Perez, C
  9. Gregorio Petit, 3B

P: Jhoulys Chacin

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Athletics

The last time the Tigers faced Rich Hill last month in Detroit, the former University of Michigan pitcher had twice as many strikeouts (eight) as hits allowed (four) over seven scoreless innings. He’ll face a slightly different lineup today, with James McCann and Cameron Maybin in place of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Anthony Gose, but the game will most likely come down to how the main cogs in the lineup fare this time around against Hill. Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos combined to go 3-for-18 with six strikeouts in the April 26 matchup.

Mike Pelfrey was the Tigers starter in that game, giving up five runs on nine hits over a season-high 6 2/3 innings. With Michael Fulmer pitching well in his last two outings, and the Tigers debating Shane Greene’s role once he returns from the disabled list shortly, Pelfrey could use a good start in the rematch. As MLB Network pointed out, opponents’ .338 batting average against Pelfrey ranks third-highest among Major League pitchers with at least 40 innings this season. Former Tiger Alfredo Simon (.358) is ahead of him, along with Wily Peralta (also .358).

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers against Hill)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3, K)
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-6, double, HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-8, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, K)
  6. Justin Upton, LF (1-for-5, K)
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-3, K)

P: Mike Pelfrey

elephantsunglasseslogoATHLETICS (career numbers off Pelfrey)

  1. Coco Crisp, LF (4-for-5, double, HR)
  2. Jed Lowrie, 2B (3-for-11, double, walk)
  3. Stephen Vogt, C (2-for-5, double, K)
  4. Danny Valencia, 3B
  5. Khris Davis, DH (2-for-3, K)
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B (1-for-4)
  7. Marcus Semien, SS (2-for-5, HR)
  8. Chris Coghlan, RF (4-for-21, double, 2 triples, 3 walks, K)
  9. Billy Burns, CF (1-for-4)

P: Rich Hill

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Athletics

Justin Upton returns to the Tigers lineup after missing the Phillies series. Ian Kinsler returns after missing the last couple games. Cameron Maybin returns to the seventh spot in the order, with Kinsler and J.D. Martinez batting first and second.

The Tigers don’t have any at-bats against Sean Manaea, whom they missed by a couple days before the A’s called him up for his debut. Likewise, Oakland hasn’t seen Michael Fulmer for the same circumstances.

(Note: I’m off this series. I’ll pick up the beat again on Memorial Day in Anaheim.)

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio


  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Justin Upton, LF
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Michael Fulmer


  1. Coco Crisp, LF
  2. Billy Burns, CF
  3. Stephen Vogt, C
  4. Danny Valencia, 3B
  5. Jed Lowrie, 2B
  6. Khris Davis, DH
  7. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  8. Marcus Semien, SS
  9. Chris Coghlan, RF

P: Sean Manaea

Al Avila goes to bat for Brad Ausmus on radio

The Tigers began their nine-game homestand just over a week ago with speculation swirling around Brad Ausmus’ managerial future. As they wrapped up the homestand Wednesday, general manager Al Avila spoke up in support of Ausmus.

Speaking with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio before Wednesday’s loss to the Phillies, Avila said Ausmus is part of the solution, not the problem:

“The culture in baseball, at least from a media — maybe even the fan base — is: what have you done for me lately? And you could even look at Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander where people not too long ago, just weeks ago, were saying these two guys are washed up, they’re done, let’s turn the page on these days. And now everybody’s talking about them. Of course, you go through a losing streak? Fire the manager. You go through a winning streak? Everything’s fine. But for me, I can’t listen to all that stuff. I’m here every single day with these guys.

“I understand you can do all you can and if things don’t work out, at the end of the day you still might have to make a change just for the sake of change. But for me, I’m telling you right now, Brad is one of the smartest guys that you’re going to find in baseball. But on top of that, he’s also one of the more experienced guys from a pure baseball background. So he’s got that analytical mind, he’s got wit, but he’s also got the baseball player per se in him of 18 years behind the plate. He’s got that combination of new-school analytics but old-school baseball guy. And he brings it to the park every single day. And he gets involved on a personal basis with each and every player, and he does moreso when they’re struggling. He’s on the field. He catches their bullpen. He throws BP to them.

“I think some people, when the camera goes into the dugout and they see a manager that’s not emotional all the time, then they feel he’s not engaged, maybe he doesn’t care, which is just a false image that you’re seeing. Maybe another guy is hollering, screaming and clapping as a cheerleader but maybe he’s not doing the job that he should be doing. I think part of the criticism on Brad is maybe he’s too serious in the dugout, but you go back to Jim Leyland — and Jim Leyland was for me a Hall of Fame manager, one of the best ever — but when he was here and we were doing well, everybody thought he was great, and all of a sudden when we started to struggle, they wanted his head, they wanted him out of year. And then once he left, they gave him a parade. That’s just the way it is.

“When you’re a general manager, you can’t be listening. You have to do what you think is right for your team. And I learned this from Jim Leyland, because I actually asked him. He said, ‘Al, the minute you know that you want to make a managerial change, don’t linger, don’t wait two months, just do it and get it over with, because it doesn’t serve you any purpose nor the team.’ I talk to him all the time. I’ve got Al Kaline here, I’ve got Alan Trammell, I’ve got Kirk Gibson. I’ve got a lot of old guys here that really know the game, and believe me, if these guys said get rid of the manager, you’ve gotta listen. And not one person has said that. So there’s a lot of support from within, too.

“You’ve just gotta know what’s going on. I’m not saying that anybody has a job for life, because nobody’s got a job for life, but at the same time, I think he’s been everything possible to get this ship straightened out. Right now we’re on a good roll and our hope and our faith is that we continue.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Phillies

Ian Kinsler remains out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms. Justin Upton gets the extra day off he was expected to get with what the Tigers are calling right quad tightness. Other than James McCann in at catcher, and Miguel Cabrera DHing with Victor Martinez at first base, it’s the same lineup as last night.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio


  1. Cameron Maybin, CF
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Steven Moya, LF
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Mike Aviles, 2B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Anibal Sanchez

fightinphillieslogoPHILLIES (career numbers against Sanchez)

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Freddy Galvis, SS (1-for-3, double, K)
  3. Maikel Franco, 3B
  4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
  5. Ryan Howard, DH (9-for-31, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 11 walks, 9 K’s)
  6. Cameron Rupp, C
  7. Andres Blanco, 2B
  8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
  9. Peter Bourjos, RF (2-for-3)

P: Aaron Nola

Tuesday’s lineups (updated): Tigers vs. Phillies

Justin Upton is out for a second straight game after being scratched from last night’s lineup with right quad tightness.

“He’s day-to-day,” manager Brad Ausmus said of Upton. “We’ll probably hold him out tomorrow, too, just with the off-day coming up.”

That seemed to be it for the Tigers’ injury concerns, until Ian Kinsler was scratched with flu-like symptoms. That led to a ripple effect up and down the lineup. Cameron Maybin, who has stayed sixth or seventh in the batting order since returning from the disabled list last week, moves up to leadoff. Mike Aviles, who was going to start in Upton’s place in left field, moves to second base, still batting eighth. Steven Moya, who filled in for Upton last night, gets the start again.

The Phillies flip some guys around in their batting order for Justin Verlander. Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez swap spots. So do Tommy Joseph and Ryan Howard, whose three-pitch strikeout against Justin Wilson followed an intentional walk to Maikel Franco.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

tigers1957logoTIGERS (career numbers off Jeremy Hellickson)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B Cameron Maybin, CF
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-11, HR, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-6, double, 3 walks, K)
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Cameron Maybin, CF Steven Moya, LF
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (8-for-25, 3 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 8 K’s)
  8. Mike Aviles, LF 2B (3-for-12, double, K)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-3, walk, K)

P: Justin Verlander

philliesbirdlogoPHILLIES (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Freddy Galvis, SS
  3. Maikel Franco, 3B
  4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
  5. Ryan Howard, DH (0-for-3, K)
  6. Carlos Ruiz, C (0-for-2, walk)
  7. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
  9. Peter Bourjos, RF (1-for-8, walk)

P: Jeremy Hellickson

Monday’s lineups: Tigers (with Cabrera) vs. Phillies

Not only is Miguel Cabrera back in the Tigers lineup, he’s starting at first base after leaving Sunday’s game with a left knee contusion. No major changes to the lineup or batting order as Detroit tests out its offensive resurgence against a Phillies squad that has surprised baseball by winning on starting pitching, no surprise bigger than Vince Velasquez.

On the Philly side, Ryan Howard gets the start at DH, while Tommy Joseph enters the lineup at first base. Howard, as noted in the series preview earlier today, is 2-for-31 over his last 12 games, but he’s 16-for-45 (.356) with three homers career off former NL East foe Mike Pelfrey.

UPDATE: Justin Upton was originally in the lineup, but has been scratched with right quad tightness. Steven Moya takes his spot, playing left field and batting sixth.

Gameday | TV: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio


  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. J.D. Martinez, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Justin Upton, LF Steven Moya, LF
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Mike Pelfrey

phillieslogoPHILLIES (career numbers off Pelfrey)

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  3. Maikel Franco, 3B
  4. Ryan Howard, DH (16-for-45, 2 doubles, 3 HR, 8 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
  6. Cameron Rupp, C
  7. Freddy Galvis, SS (0-for-3)
  8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
  9. Peter Bourjos, RF (0-for-6, K)

P: Vince Velasquez


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