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‘Just attack’: Tigers’ Boyd turns in another strong outing

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Matthew Boyd

Lakeland, Fla. – Is there anything more Matthew Boyd can do to secure a spot in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation?

“He has pitched as well as anyone in camp,” manager Brad Ausmus said after the Tigers beat the Braves in 10 innings Friday, 3-2.

Boyd, who has been battling Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey for the final spot in the rotation, pitched five scoreless innings, allowed three hits, no walks with five strikeouts. Because other pitchers need to get work, Boyd finished his day on the back fields throwing to minor-league hitters.

He threw 60 pitches in the big-league game (47 strikes), then threw another 31 (24 strikes) on the back fields (two hits, no walks, three strikeouts). That’s a total of 91 pitches, 71 strikes in seven innings.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 3, Braves 2

It was a continuation of the efficient work he’s done all spring. He’s posted 21 strikeouts and no walks in seven outings.

“It’s just pitching from a point of aggressiveness,” Boyd said. “Just being aggressive early in the count, getting ahead and then continue to put your foot on their throat. Just attack. That’s been the main thing. Just let my pitches work in the zone.”

Boyd’s change-up, typically a money pitch for him, was exceptional. Of his 11 swings and misses he got off Braves hitters, six were on change-ups.

“The way James (McCann, catcher) was sequencing hitters, I really liked that,” Boyd said. “We are trying to grow in how we work together – just being sure to use all four pitches (five counting the two-seam fastball) and reading swings.

“I thought we did a good job of making adjustments in-game.”

Boyd was asked if he worried about hitters adjusting to all his early strikes. Sooner or later, won't they start ambushing him? Bring it on, he said.

“Then you adjust,” he said. “If they want to do that, then that plays into my hand because if you can make your pitch, you get early contact, early outs and you can go deeper in games.”

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Sanchez, who has thrown eight straight scoreless innings after a slow start, is probably Boyd’s top challenger for the fifth rotation spot. He is owed $16.8 million this season and it will cost the Tigers another $5 million to buy him out in 2018.

Boyd has wisely steered clear of all the economics.

“I’m grateful for how I’ve thrown this spring and I am grateful for the opportunity I have,” he said. “Where I end up is out of my hands. God has a plan for me and He’s going to put me where he needs me. It’s going to be my job to pitch, that’s my calling right now, regardless where I am at.”

Pelfrey stumbles

There are signs that Pelfrey is out of the mix for the fifth starter spot.

He pitched in relief of Boyd Friday instead of pitching extended innings on the back fields. On top of that, he only pitched one inning in the game and left – unlike Boyd, he didn’t throw more on the minor-league side.

“We’re just running out of innings,” Ausmus said. “Guys have to throw.”

Relievers Blaine Hardy, Justin Wilson and Shane Greene all pitched a scoreless inning Friday.

Pelfrey inherited a 2-0 lead from Boyd. He walked and hit the first two batters and gave up two runs in his inning.

It seems unlikely that Pelfrey, even though he reached 60 pitches in his last start a week ago, could get stretched out enough to start the season in the Tigers’ rotation.

Shaking off Molina?

Tigers right-hander Joe Jimenez was back in camp Friday after his stint with Team Puerto Rico.

If you watched the WBC championship game against Team USA, you may have noticed Jimenez, with no big-league service time, twice shaking off the signs from future Hall-of-Fame catcher Yadier Molina.

Jimenez seemed mortified when he was asked about it Friday.

“No, never,” he said. “I would never shake off Molina. Never.”

What he was doing, he said, was shaking to confuse the hitters. The sign was never altered.

Game bits

JaCoby Jones delivered the game-winning hit in the 10th. With Dixon Machado at second, he jumped a first-pitch fastball and drove it into right field. “If I see anything over the plate, I’m trying to put a good swing on it,” Jones said.

… The Tigers scored twice in third inning. Alex Presley, Brendan Ryan and Nick Castellanos all doubled off Braves ace Julio Teheran.

Twitter @cmccosky