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Anibal throws sim game to prepare for potential 'pen role

Tigers could give recovering righty a start or relief opportunity this week

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers' series finale against the Royals was still a couple hours away when Anibal Sanchez took the mound Sunday morning at Kauffman Stadium and started facing hitters. The postseason implications, however, were already rich.

It was a 45-pitch simulated game for Sanchez -- three innings of 15 pitches each -- but a real scenario Tigers officials were judging as Sanchez got up and sat down. As long he feels fine Monday, he'll be activated midweek for what looks increasingly possible to be a bullpen role for the stretch run and postseason if they make it.

"That's to be determined," manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning, "but he's open to anything. I've talked to him. He's open to pitching out of the 'pen. He's open to starting if the possibility's there. There's just a question of whether we could build him up and make him an effective starter with so little time left."

If Sanchez -- on the 15-day DL with a right pectoral strain -- were to start, he'd have one outing before the regular season ends. It could be a meaningful game for him to start if the Tigers are still struggling to hold off the Royals by then.

If Detroit sits on the doorstep of a division title by midweek, though, then Ausmus and coaches could look ahead to the postseason and plan out their four-man rotation, with one starter moved to relief. If Sanchez can't go 100 pitches, he'd be a likely candidate for the relief role.

And if Tigers officials have the luxury of deciding that early, they could decide they're better off giving Sanchez a relief appearance or two in the regular season to get him acclimated to the process of warming up midgame and concentrating on one or two innings.

"The bigger concern is he takes a long time to get ready [warming up]," Ausmus said. "But in talking to him about it, he said he wasn't worried about it at all. He said he takes that time to get ready because he's preparing for six or seven innings. And if he's down there, it wouldn't be an issue to get ready quickly for an inning or two."

How Sanchez's mid-90s fastball and breaking stuff would play in relief is far less of a question.

"If you put him down in the 'pen, he'd probably have the best stuff down there," Ausmus said. "That's a simple fact."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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