DETROIT -- The Tigers will be facing an old but familiar opponent when Scott Baker makes his first start for the Rangers on Friday night at Comerica Park. Right-hander Anibal Sanchez pitches for the Tigers in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
Baker has made 23 starts against the Tigers, the fifth most by an active pitcher. CC Sabathia is the current active leader with 36 career starts against the Tigers. All of Baker's starts came in a seven-year period between 2005-11 when he was a member of the Twins' rotation. His last start against them was on July 23, 2011.
That was before Baker underwent Tommy John surgery and missed almost two complete seasons. The Rangers signed him to a Minor League contract in Spring Training and now he is moving into the rotation after Robbie Ross was sent to the bullpen.
Baker, after going 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA in six starts in Triple-A, was originally brought to the big leagues by the Rangers to be their long reliever but has made just one appearance out of the bullpen. He hasn't pitched in a game since going 5 1/3 innings in relief against the Rockies on May 7.
"Even though my job title has changed, nothing else has changed," Baker said. "Just go out and attack hitters. It's no good to nit-pick, let the defense play. That's what I've always done, I'm not trying to do anything new."
Right now, the Rangers rotation is in a state of flux because of all the injuries, but Joe Saunders is close to returning from the disabled list. So Baker is among those pitching to keep his spot in the rotation.
"It's one start, that's what I have to work with," Baker said. "It's certainly not going to define me as a pitcher or a person, so to sit and add any extra pressure, what good does that do? I'm going to prepare to the best of my ability. It just comes down to executing my pitches."
Baker is 7-5 with a 4.71 ERA in his career against the Tigers. Some of them have had good success against him. Miguel Cabrera is 12-for-35 (.353) with three doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs against Baker while Austin Jackson is 5-for-11 (.455) and Victor Martinez is 12-for-39 (.308).
His most memorable start against the Tigers came on Oct. 6, 2009 in the Wild Card playoff game that the Twins won, 6-5, in 12 innings. Baker allowed three runs in six innings, including a two-run home run by Cabrera.
Sanchez returned from the disabled list last Sunday in Boston and allowed two runs, one earned, in five innings. He allowed five hits, three walks and three strikeouts while throwing 80 pitches. He also had no trouble with the blister on his middle finger.
"He was actually pretty crisp," manager Brad Ausmus said. "His fastball, changeup and slider all looked pretty good; his command around the zone was good. We wanted to stop him around 85ish pitches -- we didn't want him to get over that. He got us through five and it's a good first start back off the DL."
Sanchez had to come out of a start against the Twins on April 26 after 2 2/3 scoreless innings with a blister on his right middle finger. He ended up on the disabled list.
But the Rangers have historically given Sanchez considerable difficulty. For his career against Texas, he's 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA. Almost exactly a year ago, in his last start against the Rangers, Sanchez had his worst outing of the 2013 season. On May 18, at Texas, he gave up nine hits and six runs in just 2 2/3 innings.
Rangers: Trying to keep Choice engaged
Manager Ron Washington has been trying to keep fourth outfielder Michael Choice engaged by starting him against left-handers. That's going to be difficult on this 11-game road trip to Detroit, Minnesota and Washington D.C.
Choice, who went into the road trip hitting .194, was in the lineup on Thursday with left-hander Robbie Ray on the mound for the Tigers. But the Rangers are likely to face 10 straight right-handed starters on the rest of the trip unless the Tigers, Twins and the Nationals alter their rotation.
"His timing is off," Washington said. "At least right now he is getting an opportunity to see pitches. I think at some point things will fall back into place."
Tigers: Kinsler blends in with new teammates
Second baseman Ian Kinsler, acquired from the Rangers in the offseason, is off to a good start with the Tigers.
He has also settled into a less visible role with the Tigers. Playing on a team that includes notable veterans like Torii Hunter, Cabrera, Martinez and Alex Avila, Kinsler does not have to assume a leadership role. He was thrust into that position in Texas and admittedly wasn't comfortable with it.
"You have to teach players how to prepare the right way, and that in turn is going to help you win," Kinsler said. "But I'm not good at that. I'm not good at following a guy around and telling them what time to get to the field, how to prepare for the game."
• Friday is the only night start in a stretch of six games for the Rangers. They played day games on Wednesday and Thursday and the final two games against the Tigers on Saturday and Sunday are day games. So is their game against the Twins on Memorial Day.
• The Tigers had 38 steals in their first 42 games. They stole just 35 bases all of last season.
• Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, Sanchez and Cabrera all come from the same hometown of Maracay in Venezuela.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.