Tigers' Boyd pays price for 'nibbling too much'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd

Port Charlotte, Fla. – Baseball truth: If you pitch ahead in the count you will have more success than if you pitch behind in the count.

Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd provided a case study on that here Friday.

He pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, getting early strikes on each hitter. In the second, he gave up six hits (and four runs), including five in a row to start the inning. Five of those hits came on hitter’s counts – 2-1, 2-0, 1-0, 3-1, 3-1.

“I can’t try to be so fine; that’s the main thing,” Boyd said. “I was kind of picking corners in the second inning, falling behind in counts and then giving good pitches to hit. I have to be more aggressive in the zone early in the count.”

BOX SCORE: Rays 5, Tigers 2

The action on his pitches, for the second straight start, was good. He got a pair of roll-over ground ball outs in the first and a double-play ground ball against former Tigers prospect Willy Adames with the bases loaded in the second.

“Yeah, really good,” he said. “I felt my stuff was working. I was just nibbling too much.”

Boyd has an eclectic five-pitch repertoire, but he doesn’t have one overpowering pitch. So it’s imperative for him to pitch ahead as often as possible.

“It’s clear, right?” he said. “I didn’t get banged around the field (two hard-hit balls). If it’s 2-1, you don’t want to go 3-1, so they get a pitch to hit. If it’s 1-2 or 0-2, then I can expand (the zone) more.”

Lat strain abates, Collins to rejoin CF fight soon

Tigers pitching has given up 41 runs in the last five games, not counting Michael Fulmer’s start in the split-squad game at Dunedin. And most of the runs have come in clumps, similar to the second inning Friday.

“It’s been the same the last couple of days,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “They’re getting too fine and getting behind hitters and it’s 2-1, 3-1. You don’t win baseball games by pitching in those counts.”

Farmer solid

Buck Farmer pitched 2.1 innings, allowed a run on an RBI double by Rickie Weeks, Jr., and struck out four.

“My body feels great, but my fastball isn’t where I’d like it,” Farmer said. “It’s too up in the zone. But that just comes with keep getting on the mound. But I think everything is there. … My off-speed saved me today (change-up, slider, curveball).”

Farmer is most likely going to start the season in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo, happy the Tigers have finally settled on him as a starting pitcher.

“I’m enjoying it,” Farmer said. “It does clear the mind. It was weird coming in mid-inning today, but it is what it is. I got used to it last year, the whole relieving thing. I’m kind of at peace with it.”

Game bits

Right-handers Jeff Ferrell  (two hits, one strikeout), Joe Jimenez (two hits, three strikeouts),  Dustin Molleken (one hit, one strikeout) and William Cuevas each pitched a scoreless inning. Jimenez’s fastball was clocking between 95-97 mph.

… There wasn’t much punch in the Tigers’ offense. A two-out, two-run double by Nick Castellanos in the third inning was about it. Alex Presley, who is hitting .400 this spring, and James McCann also doubled.

Remembering Port Charlotte

Ausmus returned to Charlotte Sports Park Friday for the first time since 1988, when he was a player on the Sarasota Yankees in the Gulf Coast League.

“Gulf Coast League champions,” he said.

One of his teammates on that Yankees’ team was Deion Sanders.

Injury updates

Justin Wilson (hamstring) is still throwing off flat ground only. He won’t pitch off the mound until he is pain-free. “It doesn’t really bother him throwing on flat ground,” Ausmus said. “Only when he’s on the mound throwing downhill.”

… Closer Francisco Rodriguez (hamstring) is scheduled to make his spring debut Saturday, though that is pending how his leg feels before the game.

… Saturday’s game against the Yankees in Lakeland will be the final exhibition game before the WBC for Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Bruce Rondon. Kinsler may stay with the Tigers until Monday before joining Team USA in Miami.

Twitter @cmccosky