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Tigers’ Matthew Boyd finds his rhythm in first start

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Matt Boyd

Port St. Lucie, Fla. – As the Tigers' Matthew Boyd was doing his post-outing running in right field during the third inning Sunday, Mets right fielder Michael Conforto turned and had a few words for him.

“Yeah, he told me to throw more fastballs,” Boyd said, chuckling.

Boyd and Conforto are old friends. They grew up in the Seattle area and were teammates and roommates at Oregon State. So, it earned some ragging rights when Boyd struck out Conforto with a wicked slider to end the first inning.

“I know him a little bit,” Boyd said of his pitch choice. “I know what he likes. I’ve known him for a long time. We work out in the offseason together. He’s a good buddy.”

Boyd pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut – won by the Mets 5-2 – allowing two singles with two strikeouts. Of his 32 pitches – and he used his entire five-pitch arsenal – 23 were strikes.

“It was good,” said Boyd, who will have to beat out veterans Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez to keep his spot in the rotation. “I got my rhythm, I got my heartbeat going crazy again like you can only do in game situations. It was good.”

BOX SCORE: Mets 5, Tigers 2

When Boyd came back into the clubhouse after his outing, he told Victor Martinez he was shocked at how loud his heart was beating.

“I told Victor it was beating so hard I thought it was going come through my chest,” Boyd said. “And he said, ‘Whenever that stops, you might as well stop playing.’”

Boyd gave up three hard-hit balls to the first two batters he faced. A single by Jose Reyes, then a long, loud foul ball and a screamer to third by Juan Lagares. Dixon Machado turned the latter into a double play.

Boyd struck out Conforto and Neil Walker (in the second inning) after that.

Ex- Rookie of the Year candidate Lough in near no-win spot

“The stuff I worked on with (pitching coach Rich) Dubee in the middle of the year last year is no longer foreign to me,” Boyd said, referring to mechanical changes he made. “I know what I’m doing in terms of mechanics. That foundation has been laid.

“So when I fall out of rhythm, I can get back into it faster. I guess it’s more of a confidence level in my own ability.”

Sign snafu

The Mets hit the ball hard off Buck Farmer, scoring single runs in the third and fourth. A botched pick-off play at second base set up the first run. Either Farmer misread the sign from catcher John Hicks – thinking the pick-off sign was given when it wasn’t – or second baseman Brendan Ryan missed the pick-off sign.

Manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t saying which.

“I’m not going to point fingers,” he said. “That’s why we’re here in spring training, to get those things worked out. You expect to have some mistakes.”

When Farmer wheeled and threw, there was no defender at second base and his throw went into center field.

Machado’s gem

Dixon Machado is a shortstop by trade, but he made two brilliant defensive plays at third base Sunday, both against Juan Lagares.

He turned two hard-hit balls in the double plays, a line drive in the first and screaming short-hop in the third.

“Tremendous plays,” Ausmus said. “I’m not sure he even knows how he caught that second one.”

The second one nearly knocked him over. But Machado was able to pick it back-handed and start a 5-4-3 double play.

“I was just total reaction, I can’t say anything different,” said Machado, who is trying to win a utility role. “I was thinking that I was going to dive, but I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough time.”

Briefly

The Tigers took left-hander Daniel Stumpf in the Rule 5 draft this winter, hope he could challenge Kyle Ryan and Blaine Hardy for lefty spot in the bullpen. He’d like a do-over on his first impression. He gave up a long home run, into the teeth of a fairly strong wind (10-15 mph gusts) to left-handed hitter Conforto.

… Left-hander Chad Bell, however, made quite a different impression. He pitched a 1-2-3 fifth on just five pitches. “He’s a guy who intrigues us,” Ausmus said. “He’s a power lefty, throws 93-94 mph. We really want to see him pitch and see how left-handed hitters react. Today was a good outing, but we’d like to see more of him.”

… Angel Nesbitt (two walks, two singles) and Ryan (opposite-field triple that was misplayed in the corner and a broken bat single) each gave up a run.

… The Tigers two runs came courtesy of Tyler Collins, who delivered a two-out, two-run single to left field in the eighth. Collins, in the hunt for the center field job, can’t play defense because of a lat strain. But he’s delivered two hits in his three at-bats this spring.

Twitter @cmccosky