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Pelfrey undeterred, prepared to fight for rotation spot

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Mike Pelfrey

Detroit – These are not the best of times for Tigers right-hander Mike Pelfrey.

Just when he felt like he was starting to pitch up to his capabilities, he threw an absolute clunker on Monday. And now, after his next start was pushed back to Tuesday to accommodate Anibal Sanchez, he may be pitching to save his spot in the rotation.

“I just throw when they tell me to throw,” he said. “If they tell me to throw tomorrow, I will throw tomorrow. If they tell me to throw 10 days from now, I will throw 10 days from now. I try not to worry about things I can’t control.”

What he’d like to be able to control a little better is his split-fingered fastball. It’s his second-best pitch and it’s been AWOL the last few starts.

“It’s not been very good,” he said. “But, the slider has been good lately and that’s not usually any good. But I need to get that split back.”

Pelfrey’s overall numbers are rough: 1-7, 5.19 ERA, 1.755 WHIP. But in the four starts before Monday, he looked like the pitcher the Tigers thought he’d be when they signed him for two years and $16 million.

In those four starts, his ERA was .333 (nine earned runs in 24.1 innings). He was getting a lot of ground balls. In fact, he’s induced 15 double plays this year.

Then Monday happened. Six runs and 12 hits in five innings.

“It was just one of those days; I didn’t have it,” he said. “I tried to battle the best I could and make the most of it. It wasn’t great on my end, but as a team, we found a way to win. I don’t want to take away from the fact that the last five outings I felt I was a little bit better.

“I’ve been around long enough to know when your ball is flat and doesn’t move and you throw it over the middle of the plate, it’s going to get hit. I don’t want to make a big deal about the other day. I didn’t have it. Everybody has days like that.”

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The timing of it wasn’t great. The Tigers recalled left-hander Daniel Norris essentially to replace Matt Boyd in the rotation. Sanchez, sent to the bullpen to work though his issues, pitched well enough to earn another start (Saturday).

Manager Brad Ausmus, while not calling it an audition, made it clear that those three were fighting for two spots.

“We’re going to see how guys pitch and we’ll make a decision,” Ausmus said. “Despite his so-so outing the other day, Pelfrey’s probably pitched the best over the past seven starts. We’re just going to see how it goes. I hope they all pitch well and it’s an extremely difficult decision.”

Pelfrey doesn’t love it, but he understands it’s a results-driven business.

“It’s out of my control,” he said. “I prepare myself and get ready and I give you everything I have on that certain day. That’s it. Move on.”

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