August 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Tony Paul

MLB Insider: Ex-Tiger Drew Smyly has slightly less-heralded debut with Rays

Drew Smyly pitched into the sixth inning against the A's on Tuesday, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks — though one was intentional. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Detroit — While the Tigers’ new guy debuted Tuesday night, so did the old guy.

Drew Smyly, the left-hander sent to the Rays in the David Price deal Thursday, made his first start in his new uniform, and did all right, pitching into the sixth inning.

Facing the mighty A’s in Oakland, Smyly allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks — though one was intentional. He did strike out six, but was charged with a couple of passed balls on breaking balls in the dirt.

That, by the way, probably will be the biggest adjustment for Smyly — you know, besides no longer playing in front of sellout crowds.

With the Tigers, Smyly could bounce curves to catcher Alex Avila all day, every day, and Avila would block them.

Still, Rays manager Joe Maddon liked what he saw.

“For the first time out, it was pretty darn good,” Maddon told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times after a 3-0 loss. “He made pretty good pitches when he had to.”

The Rays, by the way, appear to have made the right move in trading Price. After briefly rallying back into the fringes of the playoff picture, they’ve now lost five of six and are 5.5 games back of the second wild-card spot — with a whopping five teams between them and the Blue Jays, who hold the second wild card.

Worth not waiting

For those who have asked me why the Rays traded Price now rather than waiting until the offseason, there are a couple reasons.

One is obvious: Price was certain to earn the Rays a bigger haul in a trade if his new team got him for a year-and-a-half, rather than just a year before he hits free agency after the 2015 season.

The second isn’t as obvious but probably the bigger reason.

This winter is shaping up as quite the super sale for pitchers. Just off the top of my head, Detroit’s Max Scherzer, Oakland’s Jon Lester and Kansas City’s James Shields are set to hit the open market, with none of the three expected to stay in their current locale. And it’s that landscape that probably forced the hand of Rays general manager Andrew Friedman, as gut-wrenching a decision as it had to be to say goodbye to the best pitcher in franchise history.

Think about it: Teams that could afford Price for 2015 — his salary could approach $20 million — are likely to be the same bidders for The Big Three. For any of The Big Three, teams won’t have to give up major league-ready talent like the Tigers did for Price but rather just a single draft pick to sign one.

So while many suggest the Rays didn’t get enough — they got Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin from the Mariners and top Tigers infield prospect Willy Adames — they certainly got more than if they had waited.

'Pen prognostications

It’s a long time until October. The Tigers don’t have to decide until then which of their five sterling starting pitchers will be heading to the bullpen.

But, just for kicks, which Tigers starter would be the most fun to watch coming in from the bullpen?

“Oh man, shoot,” Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain said the other day. “We’ve kind of seen it when Ver (Justin Verlander) started the All-Star Game, knowing he’s not going very long, and throwing 112. We’ve seen Max last year come out in the playoffs, and obviously we’ve seen David when he started the All-Star Game, too. Shoot, I don’t know. They all throw a trillion!”

What say you, Torii Hunter?

“That’s a hot tamale,” Hunter said, with a mile-wide grin, going to his go-to phrase when asked about a touchy subject. “All our guys, we’ve got three Cy Youngs in our rotation, (Rick) Porcello is doing great, I think he’s leading the league wins or is in the top two. You can pretty much put anybody in that …

Hunter then paused, sighed and reverted back to the “hot tamale” crutch.

Clearly, he’s glad that decision will be manager Brad Ausmus’, and not his.

Around the horn

Biogenesis is back in the news, with founder Tony Bosch turning himself in to authorities this week. Now comes word from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn — the reporter who’s covered this scandal better than anyone, and it’s not even close — that there are previously unnamed players coming to light, and more suspensions are expected down the road. Let the guessing games begin.

… Cool news from the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Starting in 2016, the Hall will set up a traveling exhibit that will hit all 30 major-league cities as well as some spring-training sites. Scheduling beyond that will be determined by how popular the display is in certain cities; big minor-league cities can expect to make the itinerary, too.

… Wanna make a quick buck, or several? Sell your tickets to the Aug. 15 game at Comerica Park. Not only is that to be Price’s debut in a Tigers home white uniform, it’s also Miguel Cabrera Bobblehead Night, a fireworks night and recently traded Austin Jackson’s return with the Mariners. Might be the toughest regular-season ticket all year, outside Opening Day.

Three up …

1. The Tigers get bashed for their farm system, but they acquired Joakim Soria and David Price by losing just two of their preseason top-10 prospects (Nos. 5 and 7).

2. Yes, they’re old and frail. But the Yankees might make a push, given a fine trade deadline day that brought over Chase Headley, Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy.

3. Bud Selig continues to get what he wants, with his hand-picked successor Rob Manfred making the short list to be the next commish. He’s likely the pick.

… Three down

1. The Marlins’ biggest prize in the Anibal Sanchez trade was top Tigers pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who got designated for assignment Tuesday. The Cubs took him.

2. In his first game with the Red Sox, Allen Craig twisted his ankle and landed on the disabled list. He’s missing the series against his old team, the Cardinals.

3. How the Phillies haven’t traded any of their dead weight yet is absolutely amazing. They did nothing at the deadline, even though they could’ve struck gold.

Diamond Digits

20 — Consecutive starts by a left-handed pitcher for the Rockies, a major-league record, passing the 19 in a row the Royals had in 1982.

457 — Home-run total for White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, the most for a player at the time of his pitching debut, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Jimmie Foxx had 456 when he pitched Aug. 6, 1939.

8/7/74 — Sad day in Tigers history, as they released two of the franchise’s great characters — first baseman Norm Cash and outfielder Jim Northrup. At least Northrup eventually joined the TV booth.

He said it

“I don’t see where the Diamondbacks should catch all this (bleep) they’re catching.”

— Tony La Russa, the ballclub’s new chief baseball officer, talking to the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro about Arizona’s growing reputation as the dirtiest team in baseball — which reached a boiling point recently when Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch.

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