Right-hander Anibal Sanchez has to be happy to be back on the mound. Not only will it be his first start since being scratched last week due to muscle stiffness in his upper back near his throwing shoulder, but he'll also face the Twins, who he's had plenty of success against this year.
Sanchez will go up against right-hander Samuel Deduno after the Tigers' 4-0 win Friday. In three starts against Minnesota, Sanchez has a 1.35 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 20 innings. He also looks to continue the streak of 14 consecutive quality starts by Tigers starting pitchers, including 19 of their last 20 outings.
However, the team's strong pitching has caused some relievers to get inconsistent work out of the bullpen.
"What's hard is getting some those guys in a flow right now, because our starters are pitching so good," Leyland said. "Some of those guys haven't pitched in a long time. That's a good thing. You're not going to take the starters out with the way they've been pitching."
Despite strong numbers against the Twins, Sanchez only has one win, due to a lack of run support. If Friday's game was any clue, the Tigers can change that in an instant.
"That's about as good as anybody you'll see in our league with those middle guys [Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder]," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Friday's game. "The key is keeping people off the base in front of Cabrera and those guys. But it's not always easy to do. They got their leadoff hitter back [Austin Jackson] and he's pretty good, too."
The Tigers proved how difficult it was in the sixth inning Friday. Jackson walked and Gardenhire elected to intentionally walk Cabrera. Fielder proceeded to hit a 2-RBI double. After Cabrera's last 21 walks, Fielder is hitting 12-for-19 (.632) with two walks, five doubles and 16 RBIs.
In his season-debut on May 24, the Tigers hit Deduno around for six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a 6-0 win. Since then, Deduno has recovered for a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings.
Twins: Plouffe returns from DL
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who had been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained calf retroactive to May 28, played in his fourth rehab game with Triple-A Rochester Friday and was activated by the Twins after Friday's game.
Plouffe started at third base for Rochester and batted third, going 2-for-5 with a strikeout and a fielding error.
• Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez has progressed to being able to practice baseball activities after suffering a concussion in a collision with teammate Josh Willingham on May 25. Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Ramirez, who is on the 7-day concussion disabled list, will head out on a rehab assignment once he feels good enough to play in a game.
• Former closer Eddie Guardado and former director of public relations Tom Mee were officially inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony before Friday's game. Guardado is the team's all-time leader in appearances with 648, registering 116 saves. Mee received the Robert O. Fischel award for Public Relations excellence in 1988 before retiring in 1991.
Tigers: Valverde still the closer
Despite recent struggles, manager Jim Leyland said he will stick with Jose Valverde as his closer.
"We're going to do the best we can," Leyland said. "We're going to use Jose Valverde until we decide Jose Valverde can or can't do it, or we've got somebody else better. That's what we're doing."
Hitters went 3-for-39 with zero home runs against Valverde in his first 12 outings, and are 10-for-29 with five home runs in his past seven, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
• With Austin Jackson returning to the lineup, the Tigers were forced to option outfielder Avisail Garcia to Triple-A Toledo.
"I could keep him up here and sit him on the bench," Leyland said. "That doesn't make much sense. This is a kid that needs to play. This is a kid that's got a high ceiling."
Garcia hit .288 and was on an eight-game hitting streak with the Tigers. During his 24-game stint in the Majors, he had a .455 slugging percentage with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
• Despite Sanchez's strong numbers against the Twins, Joe Mauer is hitting .417 in 12 at-bats against the right-hander.