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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Despite a sterling spot start, Jose Alvarez sent back to Toledo to get Tigers bullpen up to strength

Despite getting six innings of three-hit, one-run ball from rookie Jose Alvarez in Sunday’s spot start, he was sent back to Triple-A Toledo after the game, in exchange for right-handed reliever Evan Reed.

Since they don’t feel they’ll need someone to start again in place of Anibal Sanchez — who missed Sunday’s turn with a sore back — the move allows the Tigers to get back to the normal roster balance between starters and relievers.

The Tigers had to put Octavio Dotel on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Alvarez on the 40-man roster, then optioned Jose Ortega to Toledo after Saturday’s game to make room on the active roster.

“Not very often you send a guy down that pitched like that, but obviously Sanchie will be back in the rotation for his next start. This is a good sign for us, because we know now that we’ve got some insurance down there for sure. So we’re tickled for sure,” manager Jim Leyland said.

“He needs to go right back, because we need to get the bullpen straightened out again. You can’t play with a short bullpen, so this is just a common-sense move to send the kid back and let him pitch.”

If push comes to shove, and Sanchez cannot make his next start — which would come up Friday — the Tigers could use Thursday’s scheduled off day to basically skip that spot in the rotation, and have Rick Porcello start Friday’s game on the normal four days’ rest.

Sunday’s spot start was the first time in 61 games the Tigers had been forced to start someone outside their normal five-man rotation, while most other teams had started at least one substitute around 40 games earlier, on average. Only Kansas City and Oakland have used fewer than seven starters, among the rest of the American League teams.

Alvarez was just the fourth Tigers pitcher — joining Justin Thompson (1996), Pat Underwood (1979) and Joe Sullivan (1935) — since 1916 to go six or more innings, allow three or fewer hits and one or fewer runs in his big-league debut. He carried a no-hit bid two outs into the fifth inning, before Ryan Raburn homered. 

Now, it’s back to Toledo, where Alvarez was leading the International League in strikeouts before his promotion.

It was something he knew was coming all along.

“Yeah, they told me I’m going back and keep doing like that. Waiting for another chance,” he said, admitting he didn’t really get much in the way of a souvenir from Sunday’s cup of coffee. “No, I don’t have it right now, nothing. But maybe they give me the lineup. I take a picture of the lineup when I get here for memories.”


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