It was bound to happen -- and quickly. The Tigers' bullpen would blow a ninth-inning lead, providing those who need something to worry about and protest against vital ammunition only two games into the season. But what's most important is that the Tigers' starting pitching has yet to surrender an earned run. A starter has yet to go beyond the fifth inning, but that was mainly due to blustery conditions in Minnesota. The Tigers will figure out the back end of the bullpen. It'll take time and no doubt test the patience of many, especially those directly involved. But it's starting pitching that ultimately will determine the Tigers' fate in the remaining 160 games. Anibal Sanchez shook off the concerns of a shaky spring training Wednesday, yielding two hits over five innings. "It was pretty cold, and I'm not used to pitching in that kind of weather," Sanchez said, "unless it's in October." Sanchez knew something wasn't right following his last exhibition start. After studying video with pitching coach Jeff Jones, Sanchez realized he was "showing the ball" earlier than he needed to and his leg kick was a little off. He simply might be one of those guys that require constant diligence. Don't forget Sanchez struggled mightily in his first starts with the Tigers last summer after they acquired him from Miami just before the trading deadline. After a little maintenance, Sanchez became one of the Tigers' bigger clutch starters during the late rush to the American League Central championship. "You always have to work on things," he said. "I was pleased with what I could do. You always want to win, but it's the first (start) of the season, and I could fix some things from what happened in spring training." Sanchez's new contract was a bigger organizational gamble than the $180-million extension they gave Justin Verlander. It's the price of competitiveness these days, but a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher is worth an average $16 million annually. None of this makes actual sense. But if you're a baseball fan, you're better off accepting rather than agonizing over the dollars dished out for pitching that, at least statistically, ranks as mediocre. Sanchez entered this season with a career record three games below .500. But the Tigers have faith that -- over the course of a full season this time -- Sanchez could become that reliable 15-game winner who won't make any All-Star Games, but will provide the mandatory depth that will distance the Tigers from the rest of the American League. "I thought he pitched terrific," manager Jim Leyland said. "We couldn't give him the run support, but I think that's something that's common at the start of the season. We're a good-hitting team, but it takes some time to get in sync offensively."
Tigers' bullpen problems shrink if starting rotation rolls on
Detroit Free Press | Apr 4