Tigers’ Pelfrey eager to test mechanical fix

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — The waiting; it has to be excruciating.

Mike Pelfrey has had a miserable start to his first season with the Tigers. Three rough starts in which he’s struggled to throw strikes — 12 walks in 14 2/3 innings — which has never been a problem for him in his long career.

Finally something seemed to click for him during his between-starts bullpen session Saturday (which was caught by manager Brad Ausmus). He made a slight adjustment and suddenly, well, everything felt like it’s supposed to again.

Then he had to wait until Tuesday, his next start, to test it.

“I feel like I made some good adjustments and I felt good,” he said. “Now it’s just waiting to go back out there. That’s the hardest part. You make adjustments and you want to take it to the game and you have to wait four days.”

While he was watching video, Pelfrey noticed that he was holding his hands at his belt at the start of both his windup and from the stretch. He wasn’t sure when he started doing that, but it’s not how he pitched last year.

“Last year my hands were high (just below his chin) in my windup and stretch and I’ve been pitching with my hands at my belt,” he said. “I was doing that myself without even thinking about it. And I have been just a tick off, not throwing strikes. I thought maybe this might be the cause.”

So in his bullpen session, he went back to holding his hands high and voila — he was hitting spots and he was better able to get on top of his sinker — which had been a major issue in his last start.

“It made a little shorter arm path and allowed me to get out front,” he said. “I don’t even know why I was putting my hands low. When I put them back up high, it felt a lot better.”

The sinker is Pelfrey’s money pitch, and it’s not been there for him yet this year. It was running, moving side to side, and not sinking – which typically means he was having trouble getting on top of the ball. The shorter arm path should help.

And Ausmus noticed something else.

“A number of things can cause it, but when you are falling toward first base and pulling off, the arm slot drops down,” he said. “If you can stay on top of it, you get more downward action. It’s not something you notice with the naked eye, and it doesn’t have to be the arm slot. It can just be the wrist.

“Instead of going toward home plate, the front shoulder goes toward first base and the arm drops down.”

Ausmus warned against expecting an immediate fix, though.

“People think it’s easy to fix things if you have a flaw in your swing or in your mechanics as a pitcher,” he said. “It’s not that easy. It usually happens over the course of time. You create this habit of throwing from a lower arm slot and you’ve done it for weeks. You can’t all of a sudden go back up. You have to work your way back up.”

Around the horn

Second baseman Ian Kinsler was a late scratch Monday. The Tigers said he was ill (flu-like symptoms). Mike Aviles got the start at second base. Jose Iglesias moved to the leadoff spot.

… Catcher James McCann (ankle) could start his rehab assignment as soon as Tuesday, Ausmus said. McCann ran at full strength Monday. Ausmus said if there are no complications, he could be the designated hitter in Toledo Tuesday. Ausmus said he expects McCann will need four rehab games to be ready.

… Right-hander Buck Farmer was removed from his start in Toledo Sunday after 40 pitches. Now we know why. Ausmus said Farmer, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer are all in the discussion to be called up if the Tigers have to place Shane Greene on the DL. “It’s a situation where we may have to decide on a starter for Greene at some point,” Ausmus said. “There are a number of starters we could use — Fulmer, Farmer, Boyd. We are keeping our options open.”

Ausmus said no decision has been made on Greene, whose right middle finger split open after a blister burst in the fourth inning Sunday.

… Left-hander Daniel Norris made his final rehab start in Toledo Monday. The Tigers likely will keep him in Toledo.

… Right-hander Jeff Ferrell (shoulder) was taken off his rehab assignment in Lakeland and optioned to Toledo.

… Right-hander Angel Nesbitt (ankle) has begun his throwing program in Lakeland.

Twitter: @cmccosky