Change of plans? Yankees to activate Phil Hughes, start him Saturday

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Phil Hughes was scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday after opening the season on the disabled list with a bulging disc in his back, but the Yankees announced after Friday’s game that he’ll be activated to start against the Tigers instead.

David Phelps will return to the pen to make room for Hughes in the rotation. Adam Warren presumably will be sent down.

It’s reasonable to suspect that this was the Yankees’ plan all along, and that they just stashed Hughes on the DL so that they could carry an extra reliever in the first four games of the season (players who start the season on the DL only have to stay there for five days, assuming they didn’t take part in any games the last 10 days of the spring).

Still, if that’s the case, the Yankees did cover their tracks really well. According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News’, Hughes’ bags were already checked in for a flight to Newark when he got the word he was going to Detroit instead.

Hughes never got into a Grapefruit League game this spring after being diagnosed with the bulging disc in February. He went 16-13 with a 4.19 ERA for the Yankees last year.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.