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J.D. Martinez returns from DL on Wednesday but Tigers lose Mike Pelfrey to injury

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Pelfrey will be sidelined with a lower back injury for the next 15 days.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

DETROIT — The Tigers got back Jordan Zimmermann and lost Mike Pelfrey on the same day. The team was holding out hope that Pelfrey’s back strain would subside in time for his next start, but that’s no longer the case and he has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. But while the right-hander has been sidelined, at least the Tigers are getting J.D. Martinez back on Wednesday.

“It's obviously too early to tell, but we don't expect it to be long,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We don't expect it to be more than the 15 days, but we'll have to see how he responds.”

Pelfrey’s MRI had come back as a Grade 1 low back strain, but it locked up on Tuesday so much so that he couldn’t ignore it. As a result, Anibal Sanchez — who was supposed to head to the bullpen after Tuesday’s start — will remain in the rotation. Going forward, this is the rotation:

Wednesday: Michael Fulmer
Thursday: Jordan Zimmermann
Friday: Justin Verlander
Saturday: Matt Boyd
Sunday: Sanchez

Both Sanchez and Pelfrey have been combustible in nature this year, and at times it’s been difficult to attempt a distinction. Sanchez’s Tuesday start helped ease concerns a bit, though.

While he wasn’t pinpoint perfect — he had three walks and only two strikeouts — he did induce a higher rate of ground balls. For once, he didn’t give up a homer in a start and limited the damage to a single run.

“I thought (Sanchez) pitched well, used all his pitches, his slider looked pretty good from the side,” Ausmus said. “But I was actually impressed with how he was able to pitch up in the zone again with his fastball, which he'd done when he was successful.”

Sanchez wasn’t striking batters out at a high rate, but the high strike was effective again and he stayed ahead in the count for most of the night. Tuesday’s 11-5 victory marked the first such time the Tigers had won a game started by Sanchez since April 28.

With Pelfrey going on the DL, the Tiger have an open roster spot and they’re using it to bring back Martinez. The already potent Tigers lineup is about to become even more daunting for opposing teams. J.D. Martinez may have missed the last six weeks but that threat will still be there.