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Daniel Norris being recalled from Toledo as Tigers work to limit Michael Fulmer's innings

The Tigers are getting creative with their rotation in an effort to preserve Fulmer's long-term health.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT -- Daniel Norris will indeed start for the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. With the team needing to place somewhat of a limit on Michael Fulmer's innings, his start next Tuesday will be skipped and Mike Pelfrey has been pushed back to start in his place.

Fulmer has been dominant, but he has never pitched more than 124 2/3 innings in a year. To avoid wearing him out, the team is going to need to do some creative shuffling, without taxing their other starters at the same time. That includes Anibal Sanchez, who is coming out of the bullpen on Saturday to start in place of Pelfrey, who is now starting for Fulmer.

For now, the Tigers are going with a six-man rotation until the next time Fulmer's spot in the rotation comes up.

Wednesday: Fulmer
Thursday: Norris
Friday: Jordan Zimmermann
Saturday: Sanchez
Sunday: Justin Verlander
Monday: Off-day
June 28: Pelfrey
June 29: Norris
June 30: Zimmermann
July 1: To be determined

That July 1 spot will be filled based on a couple of situations. If Sanchez gets shelled during his start on Saturday, he might be too gassed to make another start. Or the Tigers might decide that one skipped start per month is enough. Fulmer needs to have about 5 2/3 innings worth of work skipped per month to keep him below 160 innings on the year, provided that he goes no more than six innings.

Given how he's been pitching, though, he's likely going to go deeper into games than that unless the team pulls him after six regardless. Of course, that won't always be an option or the bullpen will be awash before the MLB All-Star Break. And with their workload of late, that's not really an option right now anyway.

The Tigers likely haven't made a decision regarding Fulmer's July 1 start just yet, and that's fine. For now, they need Sanchez to put up a solid Saturday start before they can make further decisions. While Sanchez hasn't been in the bullpen for a long time, he's also going to be pitching on four days of rest.

Since being moved to the bullpen, Sanchez has mostly pitched in low-pressure situations and limited exposure. His only lengthy relief outings -- both 2 1/3 innings long -- he gave up a run on three and four hits, and threw 44 and 47 pitches, respectively. The latest was on June 18 during the blowout loss to the Royals. His command has improved and he's shown an ability to handle varying situations once more, but Saturday will be a different test altogether.

"I working hard all the time when I was in the bullpen," Sanchez said after the game. "I try to put everything together _ command, speed on my fastball. ... Just ready for Saturday, let's see, to put everything in the game."

Sanchez hasn't started a game since May 31 and he lasted just three innings against the Angels, giving up six runs on eight hits. If he makes it through four innings without imploding, it will be a fantastic sign of improvement. With Verlander continuing his dominance, Zimmermann's strength following his groin strain, and the potential for two solid starters in Norris and Fulmer, the Tigers have a chance to get their rotation healthy again.

Norris was lights-out in his last start for the Mud Hens on June 17. He went seven solid innings, allowing just six hits and no runs in that time, striking out eight batters. It was the best performance he's given this season, and it appears he may be fully recovered after his back injury. He'll be recalled on Thursday. Meanwhile, the bullpen has been solid in the last few games, but the less they're needed the better given they had been overtaxed.

Still, despite their ups and downs, the bullpen has a 0.53 HR/9 in the last 30 days, best in the majors during that stretch of time. If they can just cut down the hits and walks -- the latter of which ranks No. 17 -- then it's possible both the pitching staff on the whole can regain their dominance.

The offense has done a fine job of fighting back, but it would be a relief if the Tigers didn't have to come from behind nearly every game. For now, though, the Tigers have to juggle their rotation around first to keep Fulmer healthy. It's not permanent, but it might be the long-term solution -- for the entire pitching staff.