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Anibal has rough inning in first spring start

Tigers' fifth-starter candidate allows two HRs; Boyd earns praise from Ausmus
Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The battle for what is perceived to be the final spot in the Tigers' rotation produced an interesting scenario Thursday in a 5-5 tie against the Mets at First Data Field.

Anibal Sanchez, making his third appearance but first Grapefruit League start, allowed four of the Mets' five runs on a pair of two-run third-inning homers -- the first by prospect Champ Stuart, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, with the second one coming three batters later by Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a laser shot over the left-field fence for his third spring homer.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The battle for what is perceived to be the final spot in the Tigers' rotation produced an interesting scenario Thursday in a 5-5 tie against the Mets at First Data Field.

Anibal Sanchez, making his third appearance but first Grapefruit League start, allowed four of the Mets' five runs on a pair of two-run third-inning homers -- the first by prospect Champ Stuart, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, with the second one coming three batters later by Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a laser shot over the left-field fence for his third spring homer.

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The Tigers did not allow another run until the bottom of the ninth when John Mora's RBI triple off Matt Boyd tied the game.

Boyd and Sanchez, along with veteran Mike Pelfrey, are the primary candidates to fill the fifth spot. Boyd, the Tigers' fifth and final pitcher, also went three innings, allowing one run on three hits with four strikeouts. Sanchez has a spring ERA of 17.47, while Boyd's sits at 6.75.

Video: DET@NYM: Tigers exhaust Cabrera in a rundown

"For Sanchez, the home runs were an issue the last couple seasons, they've been an issue in the early going here, so we've got to find a way for him to keep the ball in the park," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He has the ability to pitch up with the fastball. He gets some swings and misses up there. The fine line is if you miss, it's potentially a home run."

Ausmus said he thought that Sanchez's curveball was better and that the veteran right-hander's velocity was "a little better today, too" than his outing Saturday, when he gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits with two walks in 1 2/3 innings against the Yankees.

"I've got a couple more starts in Spring Training and I think I've got enough time to keep working to put everything together for the season," Sanchez said, adding that he believes he's made progress since his first spring outing. "Today for me was really good compared to the first outing."

Boyd, who also struggled in his last outing, when he allowed four runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings last Friday against Tampa Bay, is trying to control what he can control and not worry about anything else.

Video: DET@NYM: Boyd strikes out Becerra swinging

"Nothing's given. It's not up to me," Boyd said. "Right now you're laying the bricks for the coming season, and each day you come away with something to work on and you just try to build off the last outing. ... Whatever way our rotation shakes out, I think we're going to have one of the best rotations in baseball."

Ausmus described Boyd's outing against the Mets as "outstanding" and, aside from the home runs off Sanchez, was generally pleased with the performance of all five pitchers, which had been somewhat of an unpleasant topic of discussion lately.

"The last week, the way we were pitching was very frustrating," Ausmus said, alluding to the 53 runs that the Tigers allowed in six consecutive losses, three of which saw the opposing team tally 11 runs. "It was a combination of not throwing strikes, and then when we threw strikes, we were throwing them up in the zone, and that's a bad combination. So you give up a lot of runs, which we had been doing. But today, from a pitching perspective, really, we pitched pretty well overall."

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Tigers on Thursday.

Detroit Tigers, Matt Boyd, Anibal Sanchez