Tigers send struggling Anibal to bullpen

Tigers send struggling Anibal to bullpen

ANAHEIM -- Anibal Sanchez is heading to the bullpen. Manager Brad Ausmus announced Wednesday that the Tigers are pulling the struggling starter out of their rotation and moving him into relief work 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. "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 on Tuesday night. Detroit's comeback left Sanchez with a no-decision for three innings of six-run ball, but it didn't delay the decision on his role going forward.

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 that was abandoned a month ago. Now, instead of tweaking during side sessions 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 on 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 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'll 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.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.