Pelfrey, Sanchez not giving way to youth

Veterans fighting for rotation spots

Pelfrey, Sanchez not giving way to youth

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Mike Pelfrey cut out as much sugar as he could from his diet and lost 25 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame. He hopes to lose at least 5 more by the time Spring Training ends.

"I had like five or six birthdays in the wife's family, so cake was always around," Pelfrey said. "Too many parties."

Anibal Sanchez moved his family across the country during the offseason so he could work out at a facility in California.

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"I worked more on moving my rotator cuff better," he said.

If their fate is on the outside looking in on a Tigers rotation trending younger, they're not heading out without a battle.

Sanchez and Pelfrey are due $24.8 million combined this season in the final guaranteed seasons of their contracts. And that's about all they're guaranteed. Their struggles with pitches and injuries last year helped lead to Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris finishing the season in the Tigers' rotation.

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While Boyd and Norris helped keep the Tigers in Wild Card contention until the season's final weekend, Sanchez and Pelfrey were largely filling in. Sanchez made four September starts, but largely out of necessity with so many injuries, and didn't record an out in the sixth inning with any of them. Pelfrey made one start and a relief appearance after July 31, sidelined by back troubles.

The four pitchers will compete this spring for two rotation spots behind Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer and -- if healthy -- Jordan Zimmermann. But the way last season went, both seem focused more on getting their pitching in order than how the competition goes.

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"You know what, I don't want to think too far ahead, baseball wise," Sanchez said. "I feel really good right now. I just want to accomplish [that]."

Pelfrey is trying to start with a clean slate. He wants to pitch well, let the Tigers make their decision, and pitch wherever they ask.

"I'm not going to worry about doing this [role] or that," he said. "I'm going to go pitch and do the best I can, and at the end of the day, whatever they tell me, that's what they tell me. I'll go do the best I can there, too, and make the most of it."

Pelfrey's weight loss is more about agility and feeling good, he said, than anything mechanical with his pitching. He feels more agile, and it remains to be seen how that affects the way he throws. His velocity was off slightly, if at all, but his other factors lagged.

"I'm a big guy on having location on everything," he said. "I thought my command was terrible, and I thought the ball was flat a lot at times, and they get hit."

Sanchez searched for answers to his struggles all year for a velocity drop that has trended for three years. His average fastball of 91.4 mph last year, according to Statcast™, was a continued drop from his 93 mph average fastball in 2013, the year he led the American League in ERA.

He feels stronger now, having gone through an offseason without injuries to attend.

"This year, I can say everything's together right now, strong, healthy," he said. "I want to see the progress day by day."

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.