Tweaked delivery helps Sanchez keep rolling

Righty notches five strikeouts over four scoreless innings

Tweaked delivery helps Sanchez keep rolling

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The drive off the bat of Mets first baseman Dominic Smith landed all the way on the right-field party deck at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, but it was barely foul. It was an impressive drive off an Anibal Sanchez fastball in his start Monday, but no damage done.

After another pitch and a less impressive foul, Sanchez had to figure out a way to finish him off. He went inside on him, close enough to risk hitting him.

Spring Training: Info | Schedule | Tickets | Gear

"Even if it means missing inside, I don't want to miss in the middle," Sanchez said.

The ball came in at 92 mph on the stadium radar gun. More importantly, it came back to the inside corner, garnering a called third strike on Sanchez's 63rd and final pitch.

"That one was sinking inside," Sanchez said.

In the process, though, Sanchez's fortunes are finally starting to rise. His four scoreless innings with five strikeouts in Monday's 5-1 win over the Mets marked his second straight effective outing. He has eight scoreless innings on two hits with 10 strikeouts in two games since working with pitching coach Rich Dubee on tweaking his delivery and arm angle.

It's not comfortable for Sanchez yet, but it's effective, and it might be his key to breaking camp on the Tigers' pitching staff.

"I'm still working," Sanchez said. "Even just a small movement on my arm, it's not the same that I've been doing for a while. I just continue working. I've got another bullpen, and I just need to continue to throw."

The velocity isn't much different. Though Sanchez's aforementioned last pitch registered at 92 mph, and he hit 93 with a pitch in the opening inning, his fastball registers mostly at 89-91 mph. His offspeed pitches have dropped to widen the gap. More importantly, his pitches are moving, and they're deceptive.

"We haven't really seen 94-95 [mph] from him in a couple years," manager Brad Ausmus said, "but he's still got the deception and the finish on the fastball that hitters think is going to be a strike, and then it ends up being above the barrel."

Sanchez is scheduled to start again Saturday against the Pirates in Bradenton. He'll throw another bullpen session this week to try to get more comfortable with the delivery.

"It's not feeling natural yet," Sanchez said. "I feel free to throw the ball, but I don't feel like that's my natural position. I'm just getting used to it, and we're in the right time to do that."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.