Boyd starting to turn corner for Tigers

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Toledo — In his 2016 numbers, you see why Matt Boyd is creeping closer to Detroit.

He has started six times at Triple A Toledo, has a 1.80 ERA, carries a tight 1.17 WHIP in 35 innings, with the calculator showing 31 hits, 27 strikeouts, 10 walks, a lone home run, and a .235 opposing batting average.

That’ll put you in line for Comerica Park when you’re 25, a left-hander with a pedigree, and when Mike Pelfrey is an endangered rotation species who soon could force the Tigers to plug in a new starter.

A move became more defensible after Tuesday night’s game at Toledo, which saw Boyd last 6 1/3 innings against Louisville in a game the Mud Hens eventually lost 4-3. Louisville’s work against Boyd amounted to zero runs, four hits, four strikeouts, and a walk, which, not coincidentally, came when Boyd ran out of fuel and put aboard the final batter he faced.

“Feeling good right now,” Boyd said, taking a postgame breather in the Mud Hens clubhouse. “Gonzalez (Miguel, Toledo catcher) called a good game.”

Uh, yes. Gonzalez no doubt was impeccable with those pitch selections a catcher preferred.

But there was a guy on the mound tossing them. And in the case of Boyd there were extra options:

Four-seam fastball (92 mph or so), two-seam fastball, change-up, curveball, slider.

“Four pitches,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s starting to turn the corner. He understands you don’t put the cart before the horse.”

In other words, it takes time. The Tigers have been preaching the same faith with three young starters: Boyd, Michael Fulmer, who has made three starts since he was whisked to manager Brad Ausmus’ rotation, and Daniel Norris, a left-hander who has been healing from back fractures and who had been up and down in a handful of Mud Hens starts before the Tigers decided Wednesday to stick him in their worn-down bullpen.

Boyd, of course, doesn’t need GPS help when it comes to Detroit and Comerica Park. He pitched a bit for the Tigers last season after they lassoed him from the Blue Jays in a July trade that brought him, Norris, and prospect Jairo Labourt to Detroit as payment for David Price.

He also had an April cameo in which he worked 42/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief against the Indians.

And, so, the customary shuttle a player on the cusp of sticking in the big leagues often accepts as he moves from Triple A to the grand stage, back, and back again, has been Boyd’s experience.

But perhaps not for much longer.

He has smoothed his over-the-top delivery in 2016 and most critically has added that fourth pitch, the slider, which by no means is terrifying but offers another tablespoon of deception.

His change-up is Boyd’s second choice. Only a couple of times was it behaving ideally Tuesday against Louisville, but with a decent curveball, and his slider developing a tick each start, Boyd’s stitching together starts the Tigers might decide are good enough for Detroit, especially with Pelfrey wobbling and Shane Greene still on the shelf with an ugly finger blister.

McClendon was half-smiling, half-sighing Tuesday when he talked about Boyd, and about Norris, another left-hander with talent that needs only a bit more refining.

“All these kids are in such a hurry,” McClendon said. “What do they say — patience is wasted on the young?”

In fact, it’s “youth is wasted on the young,” and the expression has been tied to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and others, but McClendon understands the context, and how patience must be the theme for green athletes, especially in baseball.

Boyd understands. At least intellectually.

He is an Oregon native who pitched at Oregon State before the Blue Jays snatched him in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. He smiles easily, talks gently, and politely defers to the Tigers when talk turns to Comerica Park.

“Just keeping at it,” he said Tuesday, a 100-watt grin lighting his face.

It was Boyd’s way of saying he’ll try to put a bit more bite on those four pitches as he privately, hopefully, waits for word from McClendon that the phone just rang.

McClendon, as the script goes, will inform his young starter that it was the Tigers.

Boyd is going to Detroit.