LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd was sitting in the clubhouse at Comerica Park after his final start of 2016, having just given up five Royals hits and four runs without recording an out, wondering what on earth he had done with the team in the American League Wild Card race.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd was sitting in the clubhouse at Comerica Park after his final start of 2016, having just given up five Royals hits and four runs without recording an out, wondering what on earth he had done with the team in the American League Wild Card race. The first player to go into the clubhouse and say a word to him was Anibal Sanchez.
"'Don't let this consume you, because this isn't who you are,'" Boyd recalls Sanchez saying. "'Don't let your start five days ago that was eight innings consume you, either, because that's not who you are. You're still the same person regardless of the outing. If you play long enough, outings like this are going to happen. Keep your eyes straight.'"
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As Tigers pitchers digested the idea of Sanchez as a division opponent, having just signed with the Twins, the prevailing sentiment was appreciation for what he meant to them as a teammate. Tigers players have gotten used to goodbyes over the past year, and they knew Sanchez wouldn't be back, but many remain thankful for what he did for them and their careers despite his own challenges.
"The last couple years aren't indicative of his pitching," Michael Fulmer said. "Plus, he's just a great human. He loves his teammates. He'll do anything for anybody. For him to just still be able to pitch, it's awesome."
While Justin Verlander was the face of the Tigers' veteran pitching leadership before his trade to Houston last summer, Sanchez was a quiet leader for many young pitchers. He would notice a pitcher doing something and ask him why he did it that way, not to correct so much as to ensure there was a purpose.
"He'd come up to me and mention something, or ask why I'm doing this," Fulmer said. "I'd tell him, and he'd be like, 'OK, just wondering.' He's trying to get an idea of the way that I do things and why, the reasoning. He's got a reason for everything he does, whether it's the weighted balls or the workout plan, the shoulder program. There's a reason why it works for him, so he's asking me why I do things and the reasons behind it."
Sanchez's Tigers tenure was up-and-down. He helped pitch the Tigers to the World Series after a midseason trade in 2012, then led the American League in ERA his first full year in Detroit in '13. Injuries and struggles crept in from there until last year, when he accepted an assignment to Triple-A Toledo to get his pitching in order so he could recapture a rotation spot down the stretch.
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"Being around him for the three years, to go through the struggles that he had and still be the same guy every day was something anybody can learn from," Shane Greene said.
Fulmer learned workout routines from Sanchez. Greene learned about preparation, from video work to game planning. Boyd learned about mental approach. All of them learned from his professionalism.
"Regardless of what was going on with him, he was always a constant presence," Boyd said. "It was quiet leadership, and that was something that not everybody noticed."
Said Greene: "More than anything, he's just a good teammate. He likes to see other players succeed as much as he wants to succeed, so just having that environment with him around is good."
• Manager Ron Gardenhire got his workout music on the back fields at Tigertown on Saturday, setting up speakers between the four practice diamonds behind Joker Marchant Stadium. The music selection ranged from Motown to techno, Latin to country, to classic rock, mixed together by a production person at Comerica Park during the season. Noted Tigers fan and Detroit native Jack White made the playlist from his solo album. "The players were pretty excited. We had a little bit of everything for them," Gardenhire said.
• Among Tigers position players who have arrived early over the last couple days are Nicholas Castellanos, Michael Mahtook, Ronny Rodriguez and Edwin Espinal. Reporting day for position players is Sunday, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday morning.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.