Tigers send struggling reliever Anibal Sanchez to Triple-A

Sanchez optioned to Toledo

Jon Durr/Getty Images
Jon Durr/Getty Images

DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers' bullpen has improved greatly since the beginning of the season, with Justin Wilson as the new closer and Alex Wilson and Shane Greene handling setup duties.

But one of the team's former stars has been struggling since the season's first series, and the team has finally made a move to address that.

Anibal Sanchez has allowed 21 earned runs in 21 innings this season, serving up 34 hits and nine home runs. He's averaging more than a strikeout per inning, but his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) sits at a bloated 2.05 and he's been completely removed from high- and medium-leverage situations.

The team tried to get by with the rest of its bullpen arms, but risked overusing Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, Greene and lefty Blaine Hardy.

On Monday, the team announced Sanchez accepted a demotion to Triple-A Toledo, where he'll try to recapture some of his old form.

The 33-year-old was once a valuable starting pitcher for the Tigers, posting a total WAR of 9.9 over 2 1/2 seasons, from 2012 to 2014. In 2013, he allowed just 52 runs in 182 innings and led the American League with a 2.57 ERA.

Sanchez spent the 2016 season bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, ultimately allowing 100 runs in 153.1 innings. He finished with a negative-1.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

This season was setting up to be by far the worst of Sanchez's career, as he's already a negative-0.9 WAR and allowed runs in seven of his 11 outings. The right-hander allowed at least one home run in each of those seven outings.

In a corresponding move, the Tigers called up right-handed reliever Warwick Saupold from Toledo. He will join the mix at the front end of the Tigers' bullpen.