DETROIT — Perhaps Marco Estrada can learn a thing or two from Anibal Sanchez.
Struggling Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Estrada, who takes the hill for in Sunday’s finale of their three game series with the Detroit Tigers, faces Sanchez, who is writing quite a remarkable comeback story this season.
Things started so badly for Sanchez this season that he basically assigned himself to the minor leagues in late May.
“He accepted that assignment to go pitch in Toledo so he could take another shot at starting,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
So far, it’s a move that is paying dividends for the 33-year-old right-hander.
In his most recent start, Sanchez (1-0, 5.89 ERA), gave up two runs on five hits in six innings against the San Francisco Giants, striking out eight and walking none to pick up his first win of the season.
It was his third quality start in four appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo, and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all four of those starts. Sanchez owns a 3.09 ERA over that span, striking out 22 while walking only eight in 23 1/3 innings.
“He’s pitched pretty well,” Ausmus said. “He’s been throwing the ball well. He has a good changeup, and his velocity has been up to 93 (mph).”
It’s an impressive turnaround for Sanchez. Working out of the bullpen to start the season and losing the spring-training battle for the fifth starter’s spot to Matthew Boyd, Sanchez allowed 21 runs, with nine home runs among the 34 hits he surrendered, over 21 innings as a reliever before he was shipped to Toledo. But he’s also struck out 22, and that encouraged the Tigers enough to give Sanchez, who led the AL with a 2.57 ERA in 2013, a chance to work out the kinks by returning to the starting rotation with Toledo.
Estrada (4-6, 5.17 ERA), an American League All-Star selection last season, is the one currently mired in a lengthy slump. He owns a 9.46 ERA over his past seven starts and has only made it through the sixth inning once during that span. In a more recent sample size, Estrada is 0-1 in his last three trips to the mound with a 6.19 ERA.
After losing Saturday’s starter Francisco Liriano in the third inning because of neck stiffness, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons recognizes that another short outing from Estrada could really tax the Toronto bullpen, and he was already analyzing his options.
Well, we’d have (Lucas) Harrell,” Gibbons said. “He’d be our long guy. We’d be OK. They’re coming off an all-star break. It wouldn’t be idea,l but we expect Marco to be good tomorrow.
“We need him to be.”
Estrada is 1-0 lifetime against the Tigers.
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