Tigers' Gorzelanny: Don't judge spring by stats

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tom Gorzelanny

Lakeland, Fla. – Spring training is not a results-oriented enterprise; it's preparation-oriented. That's why they call it spring "training."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has had to repeat it almost like a mantra – "I do not get swayed by the results of spring training games."

Yet, there can still be some consternation when a veteran left-handed pitcher the Tigers are counting on as a stabilizing factor in the bullpen has a stat line that reads – 6 innings pitched, 6 hits, 6 runs, 5 walks allowed.

Rest assured, Tom Gorzelanny's preparation for the season is on track, maybe even a little ahead of his normal spring pace, regardless of what those numbers may indicate to some.

"If you look at my spring training stats over my career you'd think I was the worst player in the world," Gorzelanny said. "In 2007 I won 14 games and pitched 200 innings. My ERA that spring was about 12."

Gorzelanny got hit around a fair bit by Triple-A hitters in a two-inning outing on the back fields Saturday, yet both he and Ausmus were encouraged by it.

"I feel comfortable and I feel good," Gorzelanny said. "My arm feels great. My outing yesterday I threw a lot of pitches where I wanted to and that's the main thing."

Shoulder surgery limited him to 23 appearances last season, but his arm has shown no ill-effects this spring. In fact, his fastball touched 92 mph on Saturday, which is way ahead of his normal fastball pace.

"Velocity is not a concern," he said. "It'll come. I've always been a late velocity guy. Things usually come around during the season, but I felt very strong yesterday. If I have my usual progression into the season, I could be hitting my velocity numbers from like eight or nine years ago."

He said the last with a smile, knowing his fastball isn't what pays his bills. It's the slider and change-up and he says both are coming along.

"The biggest thing I focus on is being healthy and strong and working on my stuff and making sure all my pitches are right," he said. "This is the time to get hit around and get your pitches right.

"If you are throwing your change-up where you want to keep it in the zone and they hit it, that's fine. You are just working on staying around the zone with it and being consistent with each pitch."

The comfort level with his pitches, his comfort with his change-up grip, the bite on the slider, his ability to put all of his pitches exactly where he wants every time – those are his measuring marks this time of year, not ERA or WHIP.

"People don't realize what spring training is," he said. "They don't know how we prepare and what needs to be done to be ready for the season. We know. We are doing it the best way we know how to do it."

Gorzelanny, Kyle Ryan, Blaine Hardy and Ian Krol are competing for two and possibly three left-handed reliever spots. Ryan, Hardy and Gorzelanny are being stretched out for long relief roles.

"Ryan has pitched the best out of that group, and the other three have pitched similarly," Ausmus said. "But I am not sure that means a whole lot. Hardy pitched well for us last year. Krol was up with us and has been better this spring. Ryan pitched well for us last year, too.

"And Gorzelanny has a track record."

And his track record, his 10 Major League seasons, carries the most weight with Ausmus.

"A player's track record tells you more about the player than spring training can ever tell you," Ausmus said. "I guarantee you there are Hall of Fame players who have had horrible spring trainings. A track record tells you more about what a player is capable of than spring training."