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Outlook: Sanchez poised for another strong season

The Tigers' ability to carry their unblemished start to the season into their second series is contingent on right-hander Anibal Sanchez -- specifically, whether he shows signs of rust having not faced live MLB action since March 12.

Sanchez had been scheduled to start Detroit's series finale on Thursday against the Royals, but rain once again bumped back his start. His latest planned outing has him facing Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez at Comerica Park on Friday.

On March 17, posterior shoulder inflation kept Sanchez out of a start, and a cortisone shot sidelined him for the following week. After rain postponed his next scheduled outing, he pitched in a Minor League spring game before rain canceled his start in the team's final exhibition game in Washington.

That's not to say, however, that this Spring Training was not an active one for Sanchez.

"The most impressive thing [about him] is he told me how much weight he's lost since he was with the Marlins," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I mean, this is a guy who really watches his diet and works out hard, and it's paying dividends in spades on the field."

The Orioles' power-laden lineup that features lefties Chris Davis and Nick Markakis figures to test Sanchez, whose opposing batting average was a full 50 points higher against left-handed batters than versus righties last season. Sanchez is coming off a season in which he set a career best for earned run average (2.57) and tied his best strikeout total (202).

Gonzalez's numbers from his second big league season were similar to those from his rookie year, though his workload increased from 105 1/3 innings to 171 1/3. He received a no-decision in his lone 2013 start against the Tigers, when he gave up five runs on seven hits through six innings on May 31 at Camden Yards.

Orioles: Versatile Schoop at second for now
While Jonathan Schoop can play virtually anywhere in the Baltimore infield, manager Buck Showalter prefers him at second base for the time being.

Schoop, rated the Orioles' No. 5 prospect by MLB.com, started Opening Day at second but said during spring camp that he would play where needed.

"I think it's second right now, but I don't know; whatever they need me to do," Schoop said. "I'm thinking about second base right now, but I'll be ready [elsewhere]."

The 22-year-old Curacao native went 1-for-3 with a strikeout on Opening Day.

Tigers: Cruz to display what may have been
Though Detroit had been rumored as a potential landing spot for power-hitting outfielder Nelson Cruz, he ultimately signed with the Orioles in February. Friday will be the Tigers' first look at Cruz since he left Texas, where he had spent his career since a quick stint with Milwaukee in 2005.

"We're happy with the way our club looks," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said when asked this offseason about the possibility of acquiring Cruz.

Cruz's bat could have fit into the Tigers' lineup to fill the power void left by the trade that sent Prince Fielder to Texas. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, the Tigers' return from that deal, has seen his power numbers decline the past two seasons, but he already has a homer this year.

By passing on Cruz, Detroit ultimately decided on a platoon system in left field between offseason signee Rajai Davis and Andy Dirks.

Worth noting
• Baltimore took the 2013 season series from Detroit, four games to two.

• The Tigers opted to skip Drew Smyly's start in the rotation following Thursday's rainout. Rick Porcello will pitch Saturday against Bud Norris, while Justin Verlander and Chris Tillman will duel in Sunday's finale.

• Alex Gonzalez, who won the game for Detroit on Opening Day with a walk-off base hit, came from Baltimore in a swap last month for utility man Steve Lombardozzi.

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