DETROIT -- Anibal Sanchez's throwing hand has healed enough to start his throwing program. The Tigers right-hander, currently on the 15-day disabled list with a lacerated right middle finger, threw off a mound for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
Sanchez threw a full side session off the bullpen mound at Comerica Park and, by all appearances, came through fine.
Sanchez is eligible to be activated off the DL on Monday at the start of the Tigers' nine-game, three-city road trip. However, the club could wait if need be to activate him until they need a fifth starter again, which could be as late as May 20 in Cleveland.
Robbie Ray or another pitcher will start in Sanchez's place on Sunday, then the Tigers have an off-day next Thursday between Boston and Baltimore. The off-day means Detroit could go with a four-man rotation next week.
That gives the Tigers room for patience with Sanchez, who left his last start April 26 at Minnesota after a blister burst on his right middle finger. Though he was able to keep his arm fresh through light-tossing last week, Sanchez couldn't throw with purpose until the skin grew over the wound.
Ausmus works to minimize distractions for Ray
DETROIT -- Robbie Ray's Major League debut Tuesday night came before Doug Fister, whom Ray was traded for this offseason, makes his first start of the season for Washington.
An injury has pushed Fister's Nationals debut to Friday. Even though Fister is yet to accomplish anything in Washington, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the pressure to prove the trade was a good one for Detroit could weigh on Ray when he takes the mound at Comerica Park.
"If it's in his mind, it could [impact him]," Ausmus said. "Don't ask him about it, because if it's not in his mind and you ask him about it, now it will be."
Ausmus hasn't said much about the start to Ray, who general manager Dave Dombrowski called a key to the trade at the time. Ausmus did, however, lighten the mood by telling his pitcher that, unlike Monday's game when he wasn't officially on the roster, Ray was indeed allowed to be in uniform Tuesday for his debut.
The challenge is keeping Ray, or any first-time starter, relaxed while still maintaining his focus. During his playing days, Ausmus often had to deal with jittery pitchers. Ray said Monday that he would be nervous in the first inning, but he seemed confident he would settle in after that.
"Just try to be a calming influence," Ausmus said of what he can do in those situations. "Do everything you can to not let the game speed up on him. Try to slow the game down. Keep him focused on this pitch."
There won't be a hard pitch count Tuesday on Ray, according to Ausmus.
Red-hot Davis given rest in favor of Martinez
DETROIT -- If Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had his way, he wouldn't be forced to give the red-hot Rajai Davis a day off Tuesday.
"I'd like to be able to play four outfielders," Ausmus said, jokingly adding that he'd especially prefer that from a defensive perspective.
In Davis' place, J.D. Martinez made his first start since Friday in left field against his former team, the Astros. Davis has hit safely in all but four games this season and is batting .337.
According to Ausmus, the decision had nothing to do with matchups, which makes sense considering Davis is slugging .522 against lefties. Houston southpaw Brad Peacock started Tuesday's game.
"There are going to be times when the guys who get the bulk of the playing time have to rest, not only because they may need it, but because the guys around them -- who are on the bench more -- have to get into the game," Ausmus said.
Tigers name organization's Players of Month
DETROIT -- The Tigers announced their Players of the Month at the Major and Minor League levels for the season's opening month.
Victor Martinez was named Player of the Month for the big league club, after hitting .298 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in March and April. He struck out only three times.
Max Scherzer earned the Tigers' Pitcher of the Month award by going 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner struck out at least seven batters in all six of his starts.
The Minor League Players of the Month were J.D. Martinez, who started in left field Tuesday night for the Tigers, and Jake Thompson.
In April, Martinez batted .308 with 10 homers, 22 RBIs and 16 runs for Triple-A Toledo. With Class A Advanced Lakeland, Thompson went 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in the season's first month. He struck out 28 batters.
Tigers game in September moved to afternoon
DETROIT -- What was looking like potential gridlock downtown with Tigers and Lions games starting at the same time on Monday, Sept. 8, has now become a Tigers-Lions doubleheader. Now, the two teams will try to work out the parking setup for what could be one of the bigger sports nights downtown in years.
The Tigers originally had scheduled for a 7:08 p.m. ET first pitch that night to open a three-game series against the Royals at Comerica Park. However, the National Football League announced two weeks ago that the Lions would open their season at Ford Field that night with the early game in a Monday Night Football doubleheader, a 7:10 p.m. kickoff against the New York Giants. That put Detroit on track for an unprecedented test, playing two games at the same time across the street from each other on a weeknight.
The closest they've come to such a setup happened the day Ford Field opened Sept. 22, 2002. The Tigers played their home season finale early that afternoon against the Yankees, followed by the Lions' home opener against the Packers at 4:15. Since then, the two teams have tried to avoid playing home games on the same day, or to schedule them as far apart as possible when they do in an effort to stagger the traffic.
Except for Lions preseason games, when the two teams have played on the same day, they've always done so on the weekend.
Because the two stadiums are so close together, they use some of the same parking structures to accommodate fans. Such situations have caused conflicts in other cities in recent years. In Detroit's case, Tigers spokeperson Ron Colangelo said the teams will work together to find ways to get fans in and out.
When the Tigers schedule weekday matinees in advance, they almost always start them at 1:08 p.m. In this case, however, the Royals are traveling in that Sunday evening from New York and a three-game series against the Yankees.
• Former Tigers reliever Darin Downs, just called up by the Astros on Sunday, said he got the offseason call that Houston had claimed him on waivers while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. She gave birth to their second child, a son, the next day.
• Victor Martinez said he was not aware of his streak of games without a called third strike before he took a Jarred Cosart cutter for his first strikeout looking since last May 21.
"I wish I knew," Martinez said. "I would've swung."
• The Tigers took early work prior to batting practice Tuesday afternoon to have their pitchers and infielders work on pickoff plays in an organized drill. It was unclear what, if anything, prompted the refresher course after catcher Alex Avila threw out three would-be basestealers Monday night.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.