Anibal Sanchez returns from the disabled list today after missing the past six weeks with a strained pectoral muscle, but instead of jumping back into the Tigers’ rotation he’ll be eased back in the mix as a reliever.
Because the minor-league season is over Sanchez wasn’t able to build up the necessary arm strength to start on a rehab assignment, so he comes off the disabled list following a 45-pitch simulated game Sunday.
Asked about Sanchez’s role, manager Brad Ausmus told Jason Beck of MLB.com:
It would depend on how deep the starter went. If the starter struggles, he could probably pitch the sixth and seventh. If the starter did well, he could probably pitch the seventh, he could probably pitch the eighth. Really, his stuff is that good. I wouldn’t be afraid to use him at any point in the game, really.
Sanchez has just one previous relief appearance, way back in 2006 when he was a 22-year-old rookie for the Marlins.
Detroit has the rotation depth to survive without Sanchez, who led the league in ERA last season and had a 3.46 ERA in 125 innings before being shut down this year. They can rely on David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello while potentially using Sanchez in a multi-inning, high-leverage relief role in a bullpen that has been a problem all year.