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Ausmus: Why The Tigers Are Keeping Sanchez On The Roster

By: Will Burchfield

Anibal Sanchez struggled again on Wednesday night. Making his seventh appearance of the season, the Tigers' $16 million long reliever gave up six hits and three earned runs over four innings versus the Mariners. This actually lowered his ERA, which says all you need to know about Sanchez's performance thus far.

Still, the Tigers are standing by him.

"I know he struggled at times but I also thought he did some things (Wednesday) night pretty well," Brad Ausmus told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. "He did get some strikeouts, he did throw strikes, which we've had trouble doing out of the bullpen at times. So you do need a guy like that in the bullpen."

Sanchez recorded five strikeouts on Wednesday night, showing flashes of the pitcher who led the American League in ERA in 2013. These flashes, as bright as they are erratic, also popped up in spring training when Sanchez was lights-out in his final four outings.

"Keep in mind," Ausmus said, "there was a lot of discussion coming out of spring training that he should be one of the five starters. That's how well he pitched."

Matt Boyd ultimately claimed the last spot in the rotation, so the Tigers sent Sanchez to the bullpen. He was hit hard in his first appearance - he also racked up four strikeouts - setting a tone for what was to come. Among pitchers who have thrown at least ten innings this season, the 33-year-old Sanchez has the highest ERA (9.82), the second highest batting average against (.366) and the third highest WHIP (2.32).

Still, the Tigers are standing by him.

"He got off to a rough start as a long man but the truth is he has the ability to go long. He's the one guy who has the ability down there to probably go four, five innings should something happen to our starter early in the game," Ausmus said. "And every bullpen needs a guy like that."

That's certainly true. But the Tigers would seem to have other options in the long-relief department, someone, perhaps, who wouldn't cost them $16 million (yes, they're on the hook for the money either way) and who wouldn't serve up home runs like it's batting practice. Someone like, say, Buck Farmer, who has pitched very well so far in Triple-A Toledo.

"The truth is, Buck's best role to help the organization right now -- and he doesn't want to hear it -- is to be starting in Triple-A," said Ausmus. "In case something actually does happen to one of our starters, guys like Buck, Warwick Saupold, Chad Bell, those guys that are starting in Toledo, you need that depth because you're going to need those guys to start big-league games at some point during the course of the season."

After Wednesday night's game, Ausmus was asked if he considers Sanchez one of the seven or eight best relievers in the Tigers organization.

"He's on the team, isn't he?" Ausmus replied.

And that was that.

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