TOLEDO, Ohio -- Anibal Sanchez's debut start with Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday didn't end as smoothly as it began, but it still served as a stepping stone for the veteran righty as he works to regain a starting role in the Majors. Sanchez allowed three runs (two earned), including two home runs, in two-plus innings while walking two and striking out three.
Sanchez's fastball sat around 90-91 mph, which matches his 90.73 mph average in the Majors this season, according to Statcast™. Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said Sanchez is primarily focused on pitching deeper into games rather than boosting velocity.
"Right now, [fastball velocity] is to me not a concern," Rojas said. "He's healthy. He's feeling good. We'll just build on his pitch count now to the next time around."
Sanchez's 45 pitches were shy of the 50-60 range Tigers manager Brad Ausmus suggested earlier in the day Tuesday. But now Sanchez can use that as his starting point in an effort to continue throwing deeper into games. Rojas described the process as one in which Sanchez is being "stretched out."
As an MLB veteran with at least five years' experience, Sanchez had the option to refuse the Minor League assignment. Instead, he accepted the move to Toledo as a chance to get back into his old routine as a starting pitcher with the hope of returning to the Majors in that capacity.
"My hat's off to him [for accepting the assignment], and hopefully it continues to get better," Rojas said.
• Reliever Bruce Rondon pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts, but also allowed two hits and a walk. The right-hander now holds a 0.64 ERA in 10 2/3 innings with Toledo.
"He got through it and he's getting better every time he's going out there," Rojas said of Rondon, who made three appearances for the Tigers this season before being optioned.
• Outfielder JaCoby Jones, who started the season in Detroit but hasn't played in the Majors since getting hit in the face by a pitch at Minnesota on April 22, is on a seven-game hit streak with the Mud Hens, during which he's 11-for-32 with five RBIs.
"He's not swinging and missing as much as he was earlier," Rojas said. "Of course, he's still a little anxious. But he's looking better, he's got more command of his swing instead of being a free swinger."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.