When Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez went to the DL, the Tigers called up minor league pitcher Robbie Ray to come and fill in while Sanchez recovered from a blister on his middle finger.
Ray has done that and more.
Ray has started two games and has allowed only a single run in 11.1 innings pitched and has one victory on his resume that he earned in his major league debut. Over those 11.1 innings pitched, Ray has racked up seven strikeouts and has held his opponents’ batting average to .220.
With Sanchez set to come back from his injury in the next few days, the Tigers will most likely end up sending Ray back down to the minors so he can continue his development as a starting pitcher.
This may be the wrong decision for the Tigers.
The Tigers’ best option is to put Ray in the bullpen as a middle reliever.
There are going to be games where the starting pitching will not be able to go as long as Brad Ausmus hopes. They’ll inevitably get roughed up in the early innings which could force a quick exit. So as the middle reliever, the job to go more than two innings becomes key in trying to keep the game close for a possible comeback late in the game.
Last year, the Tigers didn’t have much when it came to long men. Luke Putkonen was called upon, but he’s now on the DL. Phil Coke certainly can’t be trusted and it looks like Evan Reed will be given a chance in the 6th or 7th innings.
Ray could fill this void if the Tigers make room for him in the bullpen.
The only candidate that makes sense to send down to the minors in replace of Ray is Coke. Coke has struggled this season with an ERA of 8.31 in just over eight innings pitched. Coke could use the time down in the minors to work on his command- it is obvious he has to.
Since both pitchers are left-handed, the switch won’t have any effect on how many left-handed relief pitchers the Tigers have. With Ian Krol being the only viable lefty in the Detroit ‘pen, Ray would add a much-needed dimension in that regard as well.
Ray has shown he has a lot of potential to be a future starting pitcher for the Tigers. With Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer facing free agency this coming offseason and most likely on his way out of Detroit barring any extension agreement during the season, the development of Ray may have to start sooner than the Tigers may have hoped for.