Sanchez gets chance to stay in rotation

Tigers righty could get two more opportunities with Pelfrey on DL

Sanchez gets chance to stay in rotation

DETROIT -- Anibal Sanchez felt his six innings of one-run ball Tuesday was his best outing of the season. With Mike Pelfrey going on the disabled list, the timing couldn't have been much better for him.

With Pelfrey sidelined by a lower back strain, the Tigers are going to give Sanchez an opportunity to build on what he felt was progress. He's slated to start again Sunday against the Mets at Comerica Park.

Pelfrey's DL stint is retroactive to Aug. 1, so he won't be eligible to return until Aug. 16. That leaves at least one more turn to fill before he returns. Unless the Tigers were to bring back Daniel Norris from Triple-A Toledo, that slot, too, would presumably go to Sanchez next weekend at Texas.

It's a chance for the Tigers to see if the improved command Sanchez showed Tuesday can carry over to the stretch run. Whether he stays in the rotation or not, that command is crucial for him.

"I tried to put my first pitch for a strike. That was my key," said Sanchez, who threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 24 batters. "Always when I'm able to do that during the game, I can expand my zone. I'm looking for first-pitch strikes, no matter what pitch I throw."

Said manager Brad Ausmus: "I was actually impressed with how he was able to pitch up in the zone again with his fastball, which he had done when he was successful."

Sanchez did not get the swings-and-misses he gets when his stuff is deceptive, and his two strikeouts tied his lowest total for a start this season. With only one extra-base hit, a Jose Abreu double, the limited damage made up for it.

"One of those days that I use my old pitches and then I put it in the strike zone," the right-hander said. "I feel really good with my breaking balls, especially with throwing it for a strike, especially on the first pitch."

Ausmus said he's optimistic that Pelfrey will be ready to return in two weeks, though Pelfrey's back remained locked up as of Wednesday afternoon. Sanchez, for his part, is trying not to think that far down the road.

"You know, right now I need to just prepare for five days," he said. "That's the only thing that I can do. Being in the rotation, that's the position that I like, because you can have a really good routine. You put [together] your routine to be ready every five days to pitch. I was on a roller coaster this entire season, but I'm fine, I'm healthy, and I just need to continue to keep my faith in God that everything is going to turn at some point."

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.