LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Drew Smyly is trying to make it hard for the Detroit Tigers to keep him out of the starting rotation.
Smyly allowed two hits and struck out four in four innings Thursday night in a 9-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
In three Grapefruit League outings, Smyly has put together an impressive pitching line: 9 IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 6SO.
Smyly said at the beginning of spring training that he had put a lot of effort into improving his changeup, a pitch he didn##Q##t trust and rarely used as a rookie in 2012. Those efforts have paid off thus far.
“His changeup is better,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the game. “You can tell that he spent some time thinking about it over the winter and working on it a little bit. He##Q##s worked on it down here in spring training and he##Q##s showing some results. It##Q##s not going to be perfect every time, but it##Q##s been pretty good.”
Smyly said that last season he sometimes went an entire start without throwing even one changeup. He said he threw about 10 of them in four innings Thursday night.
“I threw a lot of them today,” Smyly said. “I love it when he calls it. This is the time to practice on it if it works. Every game, I feel like it##Q##s easier to throw and gets better. It##Q##s fun going out and pitching well with it.”
Smyly said he threw at least one changeup to almost every right-handed hitter he faced and got several early-count foul balls with the pitch. But the changeup is not the only pitch working for him.
“All my pitches, I##Q##ve got a pretty good feel for,” he said. “I##Q##ve been throwing them for strikes. So far, so good.”
KEY TO THE GAME
Nick Castellanos had a bases-loaded double just inside the bag at third base with nobody out in the seventh inning to score two runs and extend the lead to 3-0 for the Tigers. Ramon Cabrera, Danny Worth and Bryan Holaday added RBI singles in the inning as the Tigers built a 6-0 lead.
– Worth went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs after replacing Prince Fielder at first base — yes, first base — in the game. Holaday went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
– Smyly struck out Justin Upton to end the first inning, then recorded all three outs in the second inning on called third strikes. He struck out Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton and Juan Francisco in the second inning while also allowing a two-out single to Dan Uggla.
– Smyly pitched to two batters more than the minimum and would have
faced one more than the minimum if not for a bobble by second baseman
Jeff Kobernus that turned a potential inning-ending double play into a
– The Tigers struck first with a run in the top of the fourth inning. Brennan Boesch, making his first start this spring, led off with a single, went to second on a balk and advanced to third on a groundout. Fielder then went to the opposite field for an RBI single to make it 1-0.
– Tyler Collins added an RBI single and Worth an RBI double in the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 9-1 lead.
OTHER GAME NOTES
– Juan Francisco greeted relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal with a solo home run to start the bottom of the seventh inning to put the Braves on the scoreboard.
– The Tigers had two runners thrown out at home and one at third base in the game.