Detroit Tigers: Zimmermann & Sanchez Start Where They Left Off

Feb 24, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Warwick Saupold (53) throws a pitch during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Warwick Saupold (53) throws a pitch during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers pitching offers two things this season: a pair of knowns and several unknowns. It is a given that Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer will be pitching first and second in the rotation.

The Detroit Tigers unknowns involve the final three spots.

There are several pitchers who can fill those roles, but the big question is whether they can pitch at the Major League level.

In their first outings against live opponents, Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez had mixed results. Zimmermann pitched in two innings against the Atlanta Braves and Sanchez threw in one. The pair gave up four runs in the first three innings. Jeff Ferrell gave up two more runs in the fourth inning, but it’s Zimm and Sanchez that needed to show up big.

Feb 27, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) throws a pitch during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) throws a pitch during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Yes…it’s only Spring Training, but…

Zimmermann on the Mound

Zimmermann began the game by striking out the first batter, then the next two batters got the best of him. Dansby Swanson hit a single. Then, on a sharp ground ball, Freddie Freeman was out, but moved Swanson to second. Adonis Garcia hit a double to left field and Freeman scored. Kurt Suzuki also hit the ball but was thrown out at first.

In the second inning, Zimmermann calmed down. He got three outs in a row with two soft ground balls and one pop up. This was a good sign as last year, Zimmermann had trouble getting out of individual innings.

With the salary that Zimmermann is commanding, it is safe to say he will take one of the three remaining spots in the rotation. But, Sanchez’s performance shows that he might be better suited for the bullpen.

Sanchez on the Mound

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Sanchez pitched one inning and it wasn’t pretty. His first batter hit a line drive to center field off the first pitch. The second batter walked on four balls in a row. Swanson singled on the first pitch and so did Freeman. Garcia also got a hit off of the first pitch. By the time that Sanchez got some control, three runs scored and the Braves were up 4-1. The final three batters were ground outs and a fly out.

The one positive about Sanchez’s outing was that he did not give up a home run. But, the number of hits off of first pitches was rather concerning. If he needs several to face a handful of batters before he gets into his groove, his effectiveness as a starting pitcher and as a bullpen pitcher will be questioned. There is no doubt that he will get several more innings on the mound before April 3, but his performance today needed to be better.

Next: Tigers: Expect to See More of John Hicks Behind the Dish

The only pitcher who performed worse that Sanchez today was the Braves Chaz Roe who gave up five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning before being replaced. Unlike Sanchez who will make $16 million in 2017, Roe only made $720,000 in 2016 – so his expectations are a bit lower.