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Anibal Sanchez to be activated Tuesday, will pitch out of the bullpen

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Anibal Sanchez will return to the Tigers Tuesday but he will not be returning to the starting rotation.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — Anibal Sanchez has been on the disabled list since August 9 for a strained right pectoral muscle that involved tearing of old scar tissue. Monday Tigers manager Brad Ausmus announced that Sanchez would be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and pitch out of the bullpen. He will not be returning to the starting rotation.

Sanchez's recovery was touch-and-go and there was concern that he would not return this season at all. However, the Tigers remained cautiously optimistic, and after being out of commission for six weeks, Sanchez was cleared after a 50-pitch simulated game on Sunday morning, having experienced no lingering issues.

Ausmus said that Sanchez could pitch on a limited basis — no more than two innings — and he would use him in relief up to the ninth inning, which Ausmus said remains the responsibility of Tigers' closer, Joe Nathan. Sanchez has pitched in relief just once in his major league career, on July 1, 2006 for 4 1/3 innings when he played for the Miami Marlins.

Placing Sanchez in the bullpen brings a double-edged situation into play. Sanchez immediately bolsters a bullpen that has been struggling at every turn. When the playoffs come into play, if the Tigers make it, Sanchez will be a large asset that is desperately needed.

In the meantime, it leaves the Tigers with a margin of risk in the starting rotation. Kyle Lobstein, who has filled in during Sanchez's absence and starts against the White Sox Monday night, has done a good job for the team so far. However, with two starts left to go, including Monday's start, the margin for error is small.

Lobstein has lasted no more than 5 2/3 innings in four of his five outings. He completed six once, on August 28. The upside is if Lobstein is unable to pitch deep into a game, having Sanchez in the bullpen cuts down on the risk of overusing the bullpen and creating a possible snowball effect in the following games.

Symptom-free Alex Avila

Alex Avila was symptom-free Monday and the Tigers said he would likely return to the Tigers this week. Diagnosed with a concussion, Avila hadn't played in a game since September 14. He was removed from the game in the eighth inning after experiencing lightheadedness, and attempts to get him through daily baseball activities proved fruitless for a while. Unable to track a ball without experiencing headaches, Avila and the Tigers were concerned Avila might not be able to return to the Tigers this season if the issue continued.

Update on Avila: The Tigers were waiting for a decision from MLB on whether Avila could return since he was diagnosed with a concussion. With less than an hour to go to game time Monday night, Avila passed all tests and was inserted into the Tigers lineup, batting seventh.