Hardy stays strong with help of pair of ex-Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — So how does a guy from Seattle, who played collegiately in Idaho and began his pro career in Kansas City end up working out in the offseason in frigid Chicago with a couple of former Tigers?

Start with his girlfriend.

"I won't say that she runs the relationship," Tigers left-hander Blaine Hardy said with a smile on Tuesday, "but she definitely chooses where we live in the offseason."

Hardy's girlfriend is finishing her post-doctorate work at Northwestern, thus, he spent the first part of the offseason seeking warmth and a suitable workout facility in Chicagoland.

Next came a dinner with his agent Mike Mosa.

Mosa brought along another client — former Tigers lefty Tim Byrdak.

"I had met him a few years back and had no idea he lived in Chicago," Hardy said. "I said, 'What are you doing in Chicago?' " Hardy said. "He was like, 'I live here.' I said, 'Well, that explains a lot.' "

Byrdak's 12-year MLB career, which included a stop with the Tigers in 2007, ended in 2013. He runs clinics and camps and operates a domed, indoor training facility 20 minutes outside of Chicago.

And Byrdak's facility offered Hardy a chance to do something he was unable to do the previous offseason when he worked out in Omaha — long toss.

"There was no facility that got me past 90 feet," Hardy said. "I was trying to simulate long toss by throwing it straight up into a net. Not the same."

With Byrdak, though, he was able to get in his full work. At least until Brydak had to go out of town. That's when the other former Tiger, Curtis Granderson, came into the picture.

"When Byrdak had to be out of town, he set me up with Curtis at UIC (University of Illinois-Chicago, Granderson's alma mater)," Hardy said. "So I was able to stay inside, do the long toss right up until the time I came down here in the middle of January."

Hardy got to the big leagues for the first time last season and made a strong first impression — 2-1, 2.54 ERA, 1.385 WHIP in 38 appearances with the Tigers. He did falter a bit in September, though, allowing seven hits and seven walks in his final five innings of work.

He's not taking anything for granted.

"It is a little bit different coming off a good season last year," he said. "But coming in, we've got a lot of competition among the lefties again. So, it's the same thing, just show what I got and see what happens."

At this point, he, Ian Krol and veteran Tom Gorzelanny are fighting for two spots.

"I never had any doubts about belonging (at the big league level), but I definitely had doubts if I was ever going to get that opportunity — which I got last year," he said. "It does make this spring a little easier knowing that I showed what I can do in the big leagues.

"So, let's come back to spring training and be on the same pace I was last year and show them I am ready to go again. If I make the team, great. If not, that's great also. As long as I pitch well, then I did all I could do."