DETROIT — The Mud Hens’ top pitcher is getting the break of his career.
Just not in the way the Tigers would have hoped.
Starter Anibal Sanchez will miss his start today against the Indians with a stiff right shoulder, giving Jose Alvarez the opportunity to make his big-league debut after a blistering start in Toledo.
Tigers trainer Kevin Rand called skipping Sanchez’s turn in the rotation a cautionary move and manager Jim Leyland said he “fully expects” the right-hander to make his next start. Sanchez, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Tigers last winter, described the problem area as more in his back than shoulder.
“He just didn’t recover from his last start to this start as we had hoped,” Rand said. “So we decided the best thing this early in the season was to skip one start and get ready for the next one.”
The 24-year-old Alvarez has been among the biggest silver linings in the Hens’ grinding start. Signed as minor-league free agent in the offseason, he is 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA and has struck out 76 batters in 74 1/3 innings this season in Toledo.
Asked why the Tigers tabbed Alvarez, Leyland said, "Well, he’s been about the best pitcher in the International League.”
To clear room on the 25-man roster, the Tigers optioned reliever Jose Ortega to Toledo. Ortega was 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 2/3 innings this season.
“In fairness to Ortega, he did nothing wrong,” Leyland said. “It’s just one of those freak situations we need to take care of."
Sanchez, 29, is 6-5 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 starts, including a franchise-record 17-strikeout performance against the Braves in April and a one-hitter against the Twins last month. He is third in baseball with 98 strikeouts.
MCALLISTER TO DL: The Indians’ pitching carousel continued on Saturday as starter Zach McAllister was placed on the disabled list with a sore right middle finger.
If the injury sounds familiar — past Tribe pitching prospects Adam Miller and Alex White struggled with enduring finger issues — manager Terry Francona said, “I’m aware.”
“That’s why we’re DL’ing him,” he said. “We don’t want it to get to a point where it ever becomes something [bad]."
McAllister, who is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts, is among 19 pitchers Cleveland has used this season. Only five teams have cycled through more, including the Blue Jays (27).
DON’T STOP BELIEVING: Count Francona among the waning core of robust believers in the Indians this season.
“This team is so special in my mind already that I always believe,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s going to change. I just think we’re going to figure this out. In the meantime, you hate to lose and it’s so personal. But we’ll figure it out.”
EXTRA INNINGS: The Tigers picked the younger brother of ace Justin Verlander in the 14th round of the MLB draft Saturday. Ben Verlander, an outfielder from Old Dominion, batted .367 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs as a junior last season. “I was super-excited for him,” Justin Verlander said. “He’s worked hard and earned this on his own.” Verlander smiled at the thought of someday playing with his brother. “There’s a nine-year age difference, so we’ve never played together before. What an experience that would be.” ... Tribe first baseman Nick Swisher continued to stagger, with his latest hitless day Saturday extending his skid to 0-for-24. “I’m just a little off,” he told reporters. ... The Tigers have now won 31 of their last 41 games over the Indians at Comerica Park dating to 2009.