DETROIT -- The day Anibal Sanchez returned from the disabled list last weekend in Cleveland, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said his two starts before the All-Star break would be a build-up process to get him back into full game shape for the second half after missing a few weeks with a right shoulder strain.
That did not make Leyland's decision on when to pull Sanchez anywhere near automatic in Thursday's loss to the White Sox. The conversation Leyland had with Sanchez on his way back to the dugout following the fifth inning made that clear.
"He asked if I felt good," Sanchez said. "I felt good."
With that, Sanchez went out for the sixth inning with 83 pitches thrown. He threw 19 in the sixth, the last of them sent out by Josh Phegley for a go-ahead grand slam.
On Friday, Leyland defended his decision to stick with Sanchez as the inning went on.
"I thought Sanchez was the guy to pitch to Phegley, or else I would've taken him out," Leyland said.
Sanchez had given up a run on five hits going into the sixth. He finished allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Hunter: 'I've never been thrown at my head this much'
DETROIT -- The Tigers may have found out there's a price to pay for being the defending American League champions.
Whether it's Miguel Cabrera taking a pitch up and in from the Rays' Fernando Rodney, Torii Hunter getting hit by a pitch on the shoulder by the Blue Jays' Todd Redmond, or Prince Fielder watching the White Sox's Chris Sale fire a pitch near his head on Thursday.
"It's the Tigers, and we have a great lineup," Hunter said. "You've got Miguel, you got Prince, you got Victor [Martinez], and you got myself, and on. So the mindset is: 'Oh, I'm not intimidated by them. Let me show them that I'm going to throw them at their head.'"
Hunter signed with the Tigers in the offseason for what he saw as a strong chance to compete for a World Series. That chance, however, came with an unknown consequence.
"I've never been thrown at my head this much in my career," he said.
In the end, the Tigers have been the ones facing ejections and suspensions for their retaliations, regardless if they are intentional or unintentional.
"After [Toronto's Colby Rasmus injured Omar Infante with a hard slide], it's like everybody is able to do whatever they want to us," reliever Phil Coke said. "But if something is to go the other way, everybody gets all upset instead of the game playing itself out."
Hunter says it's a part of the game for pitchers to throw inside to keep hitters off-balance, but pitches near a batter's head can't be tolerated.
"I don't care how good you are, you can't control throwing at somebody's head," Hunter said. "The ball will fade in and knock somebody out, and their career could be crashed."
Miggy looking to add to first-half history
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera has one weekend left to slug his way further up the first-half records list. With his 30th home run of the year Thursday, he already put himself in unprecedented territory.
No one in Major League history had the combination of 30 home runs and 90 RBIs by the All-Star break until Cabrera hit his 30th. However, there's a catch. Jimmie Foxx had 30 homers and 93 RBIs by the 80-game mark in 1932, the year before the first All-Star Game. He ended with 58 homers and 169 RBIs.
Cabrera is the 35th player to reach the 30-homer mark by the break since 1933. The previous high RBI total for that group was 87, matched by four players (Albert Pujols in 2009, David Ortiz in '06, Mark McGwire in 1998 and Willie Stargell in 1971).
Two previous players to top the 90-RBI mark by the break had 29 home runs. Tony Perez and George Foster each had 29 homers and 90 RBIs at the break with the '70 and '77 Reds, respectively.
Cabrera, meanwhile, has two games left and five RBIs to go to try to become the third player ever to hit the century mark by the break. His 95th RBI, which he earned on a sacrifice fly in the second inning of Friday's game against the Rangers, tied Josh Hamilton ('08 Rangers) for fifth on the list. Hank Greenberg had 103 RBIs before the break in 1935 and Juan Gonzalez had 101 in 1998.
Despite best efforts, Coke's struggles persist
DETROIT -- Phil Coke has watched videos of his outings. He's worked on his mechanics in bullpen sessions. He's worried about his timing to the plate.
Despite his efforts, the left-hander owns an 0-5 record, 6.18 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.
"I don't have an answer for that," manager Jim Leyland said. "I wish I did."
Coke walked three batters and gave up a home run in the eighth inning in Thursday's loss against the White Sox.
"Obviously, I'm not excited about the outcome," Coke said. "But at the same time, I'm out there trying to make as many adjustments as I possibly can without trying to overdo it."
Leyland is still trying to find another consistent arm in the bullpen to add to Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly. But while trying to protect close leads in the late innings, when will the Tigers have time to pitch Coke through his recent struggles?
"I would say it's more up to Phil Coke to get going than it is for me to get him going at this point," Leyland said.
Alexander, 23rd-round Draft pick, opts not to sign
DETROIT -- As expected, Tigers 23rd-round Draft pick Tyler Alexander did not sign by Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline, instead opting to play college ball at TCU. The fact that the Texas high school left-hander was the second-highest ranked Tigers Draft pick not to sign made it a lot more palatable for them.
University of Pittsburgh pitcher Matt Wotherspoon, the Tigers' 20th-round pick, also went unsigned. He opted to return to school for his senior season.
Alexander was the first high school player the Tigers selected in their collegian-heavy Draft last month. The Tigers knew Alexander would not be an easy sign when they drafted him. The Dallas Morning News High School Pitcher of the Year went 12-1 with a 0.66 ERA at Southlake Carroll High School, striking out 177 batters over 94 2/3 innings. Reports suggested the Tigers would try hard this week to get him signed, but his commitment appeared firm.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.