TORONTO -- What looked like a clear path to the postseason for the Tigers now looks like a race for the American League Central. It's a race the Tigers are going to have to run for the foreseeable future without starter Anibal Sanchez and reliever Joakim Soria.
Both right-handers went on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning -- Sanchez with a right pectoral muscle strain, and Soria with a left oblique strain.
Team president/GM Dave Dombrowski said the timetable is relatively flexible on Sanchez, depending on how quickly the pectoralis major muscle heals. However, Dombrowski said he anticipates Sanchez missing 3-4 weeks.
"It will depend on when he's asymptomatic," Dombrowski said. "That could be anywhere from seven days to two weeks. Really, nobody can give that answer yet."
The timetable on Soria is a little murkier, Dombrowski said, given the history of oblique injuries among other players.
"They're usually two or three weeks," Dombrowski said.
Even at the low end, however, both injuries take a chunk of depth out of a Tigers pitching staff that has largely carried the team since the All-Star break, while Detroit's offense has struggled to find its early-summer rhythm.
The Tigers are in the midst of a three-city, nine-game road trip that will take them to Pittsburgh early next week. They'll have to fill Sanchez's spot for at least the next three turns through the rotation.
For Wednesday, that spot goes to left-hander Robbie Ray, who filled in for Sanchez when he missed three weeks in May with a lacerated finger. Ray, the Tigers' No. 2 prospect in the return package for Doug Fister in a trade last fall, went 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in three starts in that stretch, allowing eight runs on 19 hits over 15 1/3 innings.
The 22-year-old Ray has had an up-and-down summer at Triple-A Toledo, struggling with various points with his command. His seven innings of one-run ball against a talented squad of Pirates prospects at Indianapolis last Monday, however, provided some encouragement.
"He's thrown the ball much better recently," Dombrowski said. "He ran through a little bit of a time period where he wasn't throwing very well."
The Tigers did not immediately announce a replacement for Soria, instead putting off that move for Monday. With Ray not needed until Wednesday, Detroit could announce two bullpen additions for the upcoming two-game series at Pittsburgh.
Lefty Ian Krol, sent down last week to get more regular relief work, is a candidate to return. So is Justin Miller, an early-season callup who has put up superb numbers for most of the year as a hard-throwing setup man in Toledo. He had a 3-1 record, 1.89 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average entering Sunday.
Jim Johnson, the former Orioles and A's closer signed to a Minor League contract earlier this week, is not likely an immediate candidate. He's expected to remain on his build-up plan in Toledo, pitching one inning Sunday and two innings Wednesday before the Tigers decide whether to sign him to a Major League deal.
Filling Soria's role is going to require more than one reliever to step up. Essentially, Detroit returns to the bullpen it had before trading for Soria two weeks ago. After early struggles, he filled holes everywhere from the seventh inning to the ninth, including a ninth-inning escape from Joe Nathan's bases-loaded jam Saturday.
"It probably won't be the same," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I don't think we'll take another name and fill in the hole."
Soria said he felt his oblique strain on his final pitch of Saturday's ninth inning. He tried to pitch through it, but he immediately felt it when he tried to throw a warmup pitch ahead of the 10th inning.
"A lot of times as baseball players, we pitch with some stuff," said Soria. "I thought it was something I can play with, but as soon as I let go of the first warmup pitch, I knew it was something."